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First lady coming home to boost mayor’s initiative

Updated: May 11, 2013 6:34AM

As the Senate is poised to take up measures to curb gun violence, likely Thursday, first lady Michelle Obama comes home Wednesday to bolster Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to help at-risk youth and visit Harper High School — where 29 present or former students were shot in the last year, leaving eight dead.

However, the ever-cautious, controversy-adverse Mrs. Obama is not expected, according to White House press secretary Jay Carney, to push Congress to act when she speaks to about 700 community, corporate and philanthropic leaders at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan.

“The legislative effort, the working with Congress, the political effort, if you will, is being undertaken and led by the president,” Carney said at the Tuesday White House briefing.

Her visit comes as the fate of the gun measures President Barack Obama is pushing is uncertain. Senate President Harry Reid (D-Nv.) is planning votes on a series of proposals as soon as Thursday. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is one of eight Republican senators who are open to at least having votes on measures to curb gun violence. Other Republican senators have threatened to filibuster. Obama and Kirk, seen as a potential supporter of a compromise gun background check deal, talked on Tuesday.

Carney left the door open for Mrs. Obama to say more, aware that this is the very first time Mrs. Obama has gotten involved with gun-control — one of the biggest contentious and divisive political debates going on right now in the country.

“I think it’s important to wait and listen to what the first lady will say,” Carney cautioned. “And then, also understand, that as I just said, the negotiations with Congress, the legislative effort that’s under way, the attempt to convince senators directly that they should not filibuster these bills, is being led by and undertaken by the president and his team.”

As I’ve noted in this column before, Mrs. Obama usually limits her public appearances to her signature issues of helping military families and combating childhood obesity or stumping during a campaign.

The murder of Hadiya Pendleton, the teen shot to death near the Obama Kenwood family home, thrust Mrs. Obama into the gun-control issue. Deeply moved by the killing, she flew home for Hadiya’s funeral and hosted her parents at the State of the Union and the recent White House Easter Egg Roll.

Mrs. Obama, wanting to help, agreed to headline the first major event for Emanuel’s “Chicago Public Safety Action Community Fund.”

Emanuel wants to raise $50 million for his initiative over five years. Give him credit — in just a few weeks, some $33 million has been raised, much of it by Emanuel personally working the phone.

After the downtown event, Mrs. Obama heads to Harper, 6520 S. Wood, where she will meet with about 20 students and their counselors “to hear firsthand about their experiences.”

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