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 IsaksonTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense Clinton set to break ceiling GOP senators to donors: Stick with us regardless of Trump 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 CorkerTrump starts considering Cabinet Trump's secret weapon is Ivanka Senate Dems introduce Iran sanctions extension MORE (Tenn.), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderGOP senators to donors: Stick with us regardless of Trump Overnight Healthcare: Mysterious new Zika case | Mental health bill in doubt | Teletraining to fight opioids Hopes dim for mental health deal 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 CoatsMcAuliffe: I wouldn't want a 'caretaker' in Kaine's Senate seat Indiana GOP taps lieutenant governor to replace Pence GOP rallies to Trump's 'law and order' message after Baton Rouge 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 Hill's 12:30 Report Kaine as Clinton's VP pick sells out progressive wing of party Sen. Murphy: Trump's stance on guns 'sinister' 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 SchumerConvention shows Democrats support fracking, activists on the fringe Dem ad blasts Indiana senate candidate on Social Security The Trail 2016: Unity at last MORE (N.Y.), are scrambling to limit defections from their ranks.
Democratic Sens. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuBrazile’s new role? Clean up DNC mess oil is changing the world and Washington Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm 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 BegichSenate GOP deeply concerned over Trump effect Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium 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 TesterSenate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency Bayh jumps into Indiana Senate race Six senators call on housing regulator to let Congress finish housing finance reform 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 HaganDemocratic National Convention event calendar 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2016 Senate Republicans are feeling the 'Trump effect' 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 KirkDem Senate hopefuls seek boost from convention Former employees reject settlement in lawsuit against Duckworth Duckworth wears ‘You can pee next to me’ shirt MORE (Ill.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense The Trail 2016: Words matter Lobbyists bolting Trump convention early MORE (Maine) and John McCainJohn McCainMcCain granddaughter comes out in support of Clinton With reservations, moving toward Hillary Clinton FULL SPEECH: Hillary Clinton closes out Democratic convention 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 AyotteTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense Clinton brings in the heavy hitters Kasich doesn't regret skipping convention 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 FlakeVulnerable GOP senators praise Kaine GOP Sen. Flake offers Trump rare praise Booker denounces ‘lock her up' chants MORE (R-Ariz.) on Monday night said he is opposed while Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanApple's Tim Cook to hold fundraiser for Clinton GOP senator’s camp to woo Clinton fans Black Lives Matter pushes back against local group's GOP endorsement MORE (R-Ohio) will likely vote “no.”
The gun control debate remained in flux Monday evening as Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidReid: Congress should return 'immediately' to fight Zika Classified briefings to begin for Clinton, Trump The Trail 2016: Her big night MORE (D-Nev.) and Republican leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellPeter Thiel does not make the GOP pro-gay Reid: Trump is a 'hateful con man' McAuliffe: Clinton won't move TPP without changes 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 GrassleyDems urge Obama to release info on Russian links to DNC hack Top senators want details on probe of DNC breach Top Dem Senate hopefuls to skip convention MORE (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamTrump: 'I hope' Russia is able to get Clinton's emails Syria activists cheer Kaine pick Vulnerable GOP senators praise Kaine 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.