Gillibrand and Schumer push a gun bill from different angles

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Gillibrand on 'Meet the Press.' ()
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Kirsten Gillibrand generally leaves the Sunday morning duties to Chuck Schumer.

But this weekend, Gillibrand and Schumer earch appeared on a Sunday show, making complementary but distinct cases for the gun control bill that the Senate is expected to take up this week.

Gillibrand was on "Meet the Press" for only the third time since she was appointed to the Senate in early 2009, and, for the first time, was treated to the show's typical welcome, with some of her past comments skeptically splashed across the screen.

(Gillibrand's first appearance was in 2011, when she talked about the condition of her friend Gabby Giffords, who had just been shot; she was on again last year to debate Rep. Michelle Bachmann during the presidential campaign.)

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During the discussion on gun control, host David Gregory mentioned the bill would be a tough vote for a number of Democrats, and, as evidence, presented quotes from Gillibrand's website during her time in the House, when she was a strong supporter of gun rights, back when she proudly touted her "100 percent voting record with the National Rifle Association."

"But that's why I know this bill will work, and this compromise will work," said Gillibrand, who once said she kept guns under her bed. "Because it is making sure that you protect Second Amendment rights while not undermining Second Amendment rights by saying, 'criminals have to go through a background check before they can buy that weapon,' or, 'straw purchasers and traffickers can't be selling these guns.'"

When Gregory pointed out that the N.R.A. doesn't support the deal, Gillibrand jumped in.

“This is not about the NRA,” she said. “This is about families. This is about America."

Gillibrand, who has made her own family a central part of her political profile, also focused on the families of gun victims, who have been lobbying aggressively for new gun laws.

"If you’re talking about people and if you’re talking about America and what Americans want, Americans want these reforms," she said, referencing a clip that Gregory had just shown, of a mother whose son was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, giving the White House's weekly address. "We just saw that mother who lost her child, you cannot do nothing in the face of that tragedy.”

Meanwhile, Schumer has been using his long history fronting the the gun control movement to reassure skeptical liberals about the merits of the compromise deal.

On ABC's "This Week," Schumer said the background check deal "will do the most good, according to all the experts, in terms of preventing criminals and those adjudicated mentally ill, from getting guns and at the same time, has the best chance of passing."

Schumer, who was barred from a celebratory press conference last week despite being one of the prime negotiatiors on the bill, said passing new background checks will be a "hard road," a message that was echoed by senators Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin on a couple of other Sunday shows.

The Gillibrand-Schumer dynamic on Sunday must have been what Schumer imagined when he lobbied for Gillibrand, a relatively unknown and inexperienced representative from upstate, to join him in the Senate.

The idea was that Gillibrand's moderate upstate profile would balance Schumer's left-leaning reputation as a Brooklyn liberal, and that she would be considered a reliable ally without absorbing the spotlight. In fact, Gillibrand has in some respects become the more outspokenly liberal senator of the two, as Schumer came to concern himself more with the national political map, and the compromises made necessary for him in his capacity as a member of Senate leadership.

It's been a mutually beneficial arrangement for both senators, with Schumer helping to deflect a primary threat to Gillibrand, who has, in turn, established herself as a national voice, particularly on women's and family issues.

Part of the bargain was for Gillibrand to evolve quickly, and put the Blue Dogs behind her.

On immigration, she and Schumer both made the economic case on Sunday morning.

"This is going to be a shot in the arm for our economy because we'll take people in who will create jobs and prevent people who are coming in from lowering wages and taking away American jobs," said Schumer, who added that he expects to unveil the Gang of Eight proposal on Tuesday.

"I think the national debate has changed," said Gillibrand, when asked why the bill's fate would be any different than when it was proposed by George W. Bush or John McCain. "The country has shifted. And we know that if you have comprehensive immigration reform, you're going to strengthen the economy."

Gillibrand didn't mention her own shift on that issue, and Gregory didn't bring it up.

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