NRA to score senators on background check agreement

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In a letter to senators from NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox, the nation's top gun owners' organization says it is "unequivocally opposed" to the Senate bill.

"In addition, the NRA will oppose any amendments offered to S. 649 that restrict fundamental Second Amendment freedoms; including, but not limited to, proposals that would ban commonly and lawfully owned firearms and magazines or criminalize the private transfer of firearms through an expansion of background checks," Cox writes. "This includes the misguided 'compromise' proposal drafted by Senators Joe Manchin, Pat Toomey and Chuck Schumer."

Earlier Wednesday, Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced a compromise deal that expand background checks to cover gun shows and the Internet. Gun sellers would be required to keep records available to law enforcement officials verifying the background check occurred.

The bill would exempt sales and transfers between friends and family that did not occur online.

The scoring threat echoed a similar declaration earlier in the day from Heritage Action chief executive Michael Needham.

“We expect this type of deal-making from Joe Manchin and also from Chuck Schumer, who supports the ‘universal registration’ of firearms,” Needham said. “However, we expect more from Pat Toomey and, more importantly, so do his constituents. To be clear, lawmakers will not get a pass on any bill that infringes on the constitutional rights of the American people.”

The NRA said that not only would senators be graded on their vote on the proposed amendment that will be offered by Toomey and Manchin, but they will also break with their standard policy of not judging procedural votes and grade senators on how they vote on a final cloture motion.

Some 13 Republican senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have threatened to filibuster the bill ahead of a procedural vote, scheduled for Thursday, which is expected to open debate on the gun bill. A competing group of Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have said they would not participate in a filibuster, seemingly ensuring that legislative debate on the law would be allowed.

Less clear is whether those Republican senators will also oppose a filibuster of the final cloture vote. That decision will likely be further complicated by both the NRA scoring threat, putting some senators who were likely planning to vote for cloture but against the eventual bill in a tough spot. Senate legislation needs 60 votes to end a filibuster, but the gun control bill would need just 50 lawmakers to vote for it after clearing that hurdle.

President Obama is meeting with a dozen Republican senators at the White House Wednesday night, and is expected to lobby them to allow a vote on the gun control bill.

"I can assure you that the need to make progress on legislation that is very common-sense, that is supported in each of its components by a majority of the American people, will be a topic of conversation," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. "It will certainly be something the president wants to discuss."