By Alexander Bolton and Jordy Yager - 04/15/13 11:37 PM EDT
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 IsaksonJohnny IsaksonFeds propose forcing speed limits on large trucks, buses Cruz, Lee question legality of Iran payment GOP senator: Obama 'hid' Iran payment from Congress MORE (Ga.), Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissWyden hammers CIA chief over Senate spying Cruz is a liability Inside Paul Ryan’s brain trust MORE (Ga.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerBolton would consider serving as Trump's secretary of State Trump struggles to land punches on Dems over ISIS GOP senator: Trump calling Obama ISIS founder 'went far too far' MORE (Tenn.), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderTenn. senator blasts 'intolerable increase' in ObamaCare prices GOP Rep. Black wins primary fight GOP senators to donors: Stick with us regardless of Trump MORE (Tenn.), John HoevenJohn HoevenMajority of GOP senators to attend Trump convention Death threats against senators remained on Twitter for 2 weeks Senate panel approves funding boost for TSA MORE (N.D.), Dan CoatsDan CoatsBayh's Indiana voting status is inactive: report Poll: Democrat Bayh up 7 points in Indiana Senate race Indiana Dem Bayh touts his 'independence' in Senate ad MORE (Ind.) and Roger WickerRoger WickerMcAuliffe: I wouldn't want a 'caretaker' in Kaine's Senate seat Top GOP senator: Trump will have little effect on Senate races GOP senators to donors: Stick with us regardless of Trump MORE (Miss.) have said they will vote against a compromise to expand background checks to cover sales at gun shows and over the Internet.
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 MurphyChris MurphyThe Trail 2016: Trump works to widen his appeal Lawmakers amplify criticism of US support for Saudi bombing campaign Congress must take action to block weapon sales to Saudi Arabia 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 SchumerDems' Florida Senate primary nears its bitter end Trump was wrong: Kaine is a liberal in a moderate's clothing Trump poised to betray primary supporters on immigration MORE (N.Y.), are scrambling to limit defections from their ranks.
Democratic Sens. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuFive reasons the Trump campaign is in deep trouble Louisiana gov: Trump helped 'shine a spotlight' on flood recovery Giuliani: Trump 'more presidential' than Obama in Louisiana visit MORE (La.), Max BaucusMax BaucusGlover Park Group now lobbying for Lyft Wyden unveils business tax proposal College endowments under scrutiny MORE (Mont.), Mark PryorMark PryorCotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood MORE (Ark.), Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampFeds weigh minimum train crew sizes Senate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency Emerging technology-based consensus may help clear the air MORE (N.D.) and Mark BegichMark BegichRyan's victory trumps justice reform opponents There is great responsibility being in the minority Senate GOP deeply concerned over Trump effect 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 TesterJon TesterSenators weigh in on FCC's business internet reform plans Senate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency Bayh jumps into Indiana Senate race 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 HaganClinton's lead in NC elevates Senate race Democratic National Convention event calendar 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2016 MORE (N.C.), another red-state Democrat up for reelection next year, supports it.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyOvernight Finance: Senate punts on Zika funding | House panel clears final spending bill | Biz groups press Treasury on tax rules | Obama trade rep confident Pacific deal passes this year Overnight Healthcare: Lawmakers leave for summer without approving new Zika funds Dems block defense spending bill for second time 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 KirkWhite House dismisses GOP senator's likening of Obama to 'drug dealer in chief' The Trail 2016: Focus on the Foundation White House: 0M Iran payment wasn’t ransom MORE (Ill.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsPolitical bedfellows of 2016 may be strange but not unheard of Obama creates new national monument in Maine GOP senator considering Libertarian ticket MORE (Maine) and John McCainJohn McCainThe Trail 2016: Drip, drip, drip... The Hill’s 12:30 Report Veteran and single father wants Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces 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 AyotteSanders to campaign for Clinton on Labor Day Republicans slam Biden remarks on closing Gitmo GOP: Ship harassment shows US-Iran relations aren't warming MORE (N.H.) and Dean HellerDean HellerMcAuliffe: I wouldn't want a 'caretaker' in Kaine's Senate seat Senators offer bill removing hurdles to offering stock options Six senators call on housing regulator to let Congress finish housing finance reform MORE (Nev.). Sen. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeTrump haunts McCain's reelection fight Flake advises GOP candidates: 'Distance yourself from Trump' Pence earns GOP raves in first month as Trump VP MORE (R-Ariz.) on Monday night said he is opposed while Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanThe Trail 2016: Drip, drip, drip... Exclusive: Kochs pull ads from Ohio Senate race Five takeaways from the EU's blockbuster ruling against Apple MORE (R-Ohio) will likely vote “no.”
The gun control debate remained in flux Monday evening as Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidMurphy wins Fla. Senate primary, setting up showdown with Rubio Top Dems push FBI to investigate Trump campaign role in DNC hack No, Tim Kaine is not the most liberal member of Congress MORE (D-Nev.) and Republican leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellCDC director on Zika: 'Basically, we're out of money' Juan Williams: Trump's race politics will destroy GOP Rank-and-file Republicans fear lame-duck vote on pricey funding bill 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyHouse oversight asks for private meeting with EpiPen maker Grassley: Mylan not going far enough with EpiPen discounts Five things to know about the Clinton Foundation and its donors MORE (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamClinton, Trump sharpen attacks Graham: Let special prosecutor probe Clinton emails The Trail 2016: Clinton’s ups and downs 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.