Manchin-Toomey background-checks bill faces uphill path to secure 60 votes

Expanded background checks, a pillar of President Obama’s gun control agenda, is in jeopardy of falling short of the required 60 votes in the Senate.

Republican lawmakers who were considered possible “yes” votes have backed away. GOP Sens. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA This week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by CVS Health - A pivotal day for House Republicans on immigration MORE (Ga.), Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLobbying World Former GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party MORE (Ga.), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn Corker turns downs Trump's offer to be ambassador to Australia Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA MORE (Tenn.), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA GOP lawmakers want Trump to stop bashing Congress The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by CVS Health - A pivotal day for House Republicans on immigration MORE (Tenn.), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA GOP lawmakers want Trump to stop bashing Congress Chao names participants selected for drone pilot program MORE (N.D.), Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsThe Memo: Trump flirts with constitutional crisis Ex-Trump campaign adviser rips claims of spy in campaign: It's 'embarrassing' DOJ, Trump reach deal on expanded Russia review MORE (Ind.) and Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerTrump endorses Arkansas governor's reelection bid ahead of primary Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA GOP, Dem lawmakers come together for McCain documentary MORE (Miss.) have said they will vote against a compromise to expand background checks to cover sales at gun shows and over the Internet. 

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Isakson, Chambliss, Corker and Alexander were the targets of a new television ad launched Friday by the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns to pressure senators to vote for the background-check legislation sponsored by Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinBlankenship third-party bid worries Senate GOP Overnight Energy: Feds eye rolling back Alaska wildlife rule | Park service releases climate report | Paper mills blamed for water contamination | Blankenship plans third-party Senate run The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Frenzy over Kennedy retirement rumors | Trump challenges DOJ MORE (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).  

Toomey on Monday said he doesn’t have the votes: “Not yet, but we’re working on it.”

The gun violence package received a major boost last week when Toomey, who has an A rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA), signed onto a bipartisan plan to expand background checks. If it were to fail on the Senate floor this week, it would deliver a serious blow to Obama’s second-term agenda. 

Senate Democratic leaders still believe they have a shot at rounding up 60 votes to overcome an expected Republican filibuster of the amendment to expand background checks, but they would need the lion’s share of the remaining undecided votes. 

“We always knew it was going to be close. There are enough undecided votes out there for it to pass,” a senior Democratic aide said.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDem senator: I support 'real' Second Amendment, not 'imaginary' one Frustrated Trump wants action on border wall, immigration Michigan Dem: Detroit-style pizza 'sweeping the nation' MORE (D-Conn.), who has been at the forefront of the gun violence debate, predicted expanded background checks would have enough support to pass — just barely. 

“It does, but it’s going to be close. It’s going to be 60, 61 votes,” he said.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group backed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, held nearly 80 events in the home states of wavering senators over the weekend to build pressure before the vote.  

Democratic leaders, led by Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' Free traders applaud Trump as China tariff threat recedes The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Frenzy over Kennedy retirement rumors | Trump challenges DOJ MORE (N.Y.), are scrambling to limit defections from their ranks. 

Democratic Sens. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuLandrieu dynasty faces a pause in Louisiana Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Project Veritas at risk of losing fundraising license in New York, AG warns MORE (La.), Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusClients’ Cohen ties become PR liability Green Party puts Dem seat at risk in Montana Business groups worried about Trump's China tariffs plan MORE (Mont.), Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (Ark.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Defense: Senate confirms Haspel as CIA chief | Trump offers Kim 'protections' if he gives up nukes | Dem amendments target Trump military parade Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers target Chinese tech giants | Dems move to save top cyber post | Trump gets a new CIA chief | Ryan delays election security briefing | Twitter CEO meets lawmakers Senate confirms Haspel to head CIA MORE (N.D.) and Mark BegichMark Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (Alaska) are potential votes against the deal. All five on Monday indicated they are still reviewing the proposal, and Baucus said he hadn’t heard from Obama or Vice President Biden.

Obama called Pryor last week and asked him to take a look at the Manchin-Toomey measure.

“It wasn’t a high-pressure sales job,” Pryor said on Monday.

Baucus’s Democratic colleague in Montana, Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThis week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure Overnight Defense: Over 500 amendments proposed for defense bill | Measures address transgender troops, Yemen war | Trump taps acting VA chief as permanent secretary Not only do we need to support veterans, but their caregivers, too MORE, announced his support for the bill on Monday.

Democrats who are up for reelection next year include Baucus, Landrieu, Pryor and Begich. Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven Hagan2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Politics is purple in North Carolina MORE (N.C.), another red-state Democrat up for reelection next year, supports it.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyVoters Dems need aren't impressed by anti-waterboarding showboating Overnight Defense: Senate confirms Haspel as CIA chief | Trump offers Kim 'protections' if he gives up nukes | Dem amendments target Trump military parade Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers target Chinese tech giants | Dems move to save top cyber post | Trump gets a new CIA chief | Ryan delays election security briefing | Twitter CEO meets lawmakers MORE (Ind.), a conservative Democrat, said her boss is still reviewing the legislation. But Democratic leaders are less concerned about him voting with Republicans. 

“I think at the end of the day, this is unlikely to fail because of Democrats,” said a Democratic aide. 

Schumer said in an ABC News interview Sunday: “We’re going to have the overwhelming majority of Democrats be for this.”

Democrats control 55 seats in the upper chamber. Four Republicans have so far pledged to support Manchin-Toomey: Sens. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThis week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill Trump attending Senate GOP lunch Tuesday High stakes as Trump heads to Hill MORE (Ill.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn Trump's plan to claw back spending hits wall in Congress Dem rep to launch discharge petition to force net neutrality vote in House MORE (Maine) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: Pompeo lays out new Iran terms | Pentagon hints at more aggressive posture against Iran | House, Senate move on defense bill Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Sarah Sanders: ‘Democrats are losing their war against women in the Trump administration’ MORE (Ariz.), in addition to Toomey. 

Democrats need only one more Republican to vote to advance the proposal if they keep their caucus unified. But doing so appears unlikely. 

Begich and Pryor voted to support a Republican filibuster to block proceeding to the gun violence bill, signaling they are likely defectors.

The NRA has announced it will factor the vote in its legislative scorecard — lawmakers who vote “yes” could see their NRA rating drop. 

The undecided Republicans include Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteThe Hill's Morning Report: Koch Network re-evaluating midterm strategy amid frustrations with GOP Audit finds US Defense Department wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars US sends A-10 squadron to Afghanistan for first time in three years MORE (N.H.) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerKennedy retirement rumors shift into overdrive McConnell: Midterms will be 'very challenging' for GOP Singer Jason Mraz: Too much political 'combat' in Washington MORE (Nev.). Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn Sarah Sanders: ‘Democrats are losing their war against women in the Trump administration’ Trump yuks it up to deflect Senate critics MORE (R-Ariz.) on Monday night said he is opposed while Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanEx-McConnell policy aide joining lobby firm WATCH: Sen. Flake: “More doubtful” North Korean summit will happen  Lobbying world MORE (R-Ohio) will likely vote “no.”

The gun control debate remained in flux Monday evening as Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell not yet ready to change rules for Trump nominees The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Trump to press GOP on changing Senate rules MORE (D-Nev.) and Republican leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenators near deal on sexual harassment policy change Blankenship third-party bid worries Senate GOP Overnight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' MORE (Ky.) negotiated an agreement for considering amendments. 

In a floor speech on Monday, Reid noted that the Manchin-Toomey amendment has been backed by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the second-largest gun-rights groups in the nation. 

Several Republican swing voters are holding off on a decision about how to vote on Manchin-Toomey, to give Republican colleagues more time to craft an alternative. Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP chairman in talks with 'big pharma' on moving drug pricing bill Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA This week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure MORE (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Graham: Trump will 'end North Korea’s threat to the American homeland' in his first term Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers weigh in after Texas school shooting MORE (R-S.C.) are drafting legislation to expand background checks, address the availability of firearms for the mentally ill and improve school safety.

But Democrats do not want to give on-the-fence Republicans the option of voting for a further watered-down version of expanded background checks that could give them political cover for opposing Manchin-Toomey. 

Corker said while he opposes the bipartisan plan touted by the Democratic leadership, he is open to other proposals. 

“Sen. Corker would not support Manchin-Toomey as written but is open to supporting amendments to achieve what he believes is the central issue: preventing violence by dangerous, mentally ill people,” said Laura Herzog, his spokeswoman.

Democrats also want to prevent a vote on GOP-sponsored legislation to allow concealed carry permits to apply across state lines.

This article was updated on Aprill 16 at 8:15 a.m. to update Sen. Jeff Flake's position.