Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott is finding himself in a tight spot. He wants the Senate to vote on badly needed emergency funding for the Kosovo operation by week’s end, and he has threatened to bring the gun debate to a close and move on without a gun bill if need be. But to have let the Democrats beat up on the Republicans about guns for so long and then emerge with nothing to show at the end of the week would be politically disastrous, says Dickerson. Senate Democrats sense they have the upper hand, "and they intend to milk the gun issue as long as they can," says Dickerson. On Thursday, Democrats believe they will have the perfect photo-op to keep their offensive in full swing: The President is going to Littleton, Colorado.
As the debate over gun control gets deep into its second week, Democrats continue to fire away on all fronts while Republicans duck for cover. After getting the Senate to agree to child-safety devices on new guns by a 78-to-20 vote, the chamber returned to debate a Democratic amendment to further tighten gun-show sales. Meanwhile, on the House side, Speaker Dennis Hastert, sensing the imperative of deflecting some of the Democratic political bullets, came out in favor of raising the minimum age for handgun purchases from 18 to 21. "The Republicans are still in retreat and trying to get their footing," says TIME congressional correspondent John Dickerson.