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 IsaksonAmeriCorps hurricane heroes deserve a reward — don’t tax it Price’s job seen at risk after Trump slams private jet use Senate passes bipartisan Medicare reform bill MORE (Ga.), Saxby ChamblissSaxby 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 CorkerDeficit hawks voice worry over direction of tax plan The Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Overnight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot MORE (Tenn.), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderChildren’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Schumer calls for attaching ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance MORE (Tenn.), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenThe Hill's Whip List: Republicans try again on ObamaCare repeal Air Force One is Trump’s new boardroom Overnight Finance: Trump strikes debt, spending deal with Dems | Deal shocks GOP | Fed’s No. 2 to resign | Trump keeps tax squeeze on red state Dems | House aims to pass budget next week MORE (N.D.), Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsDon’t throw the baby out with the BATwater Overnight Cybersecurity: DHS bans agencies from using Kaspersky software | Panel calls Equifax CEO to testify | Facebook pulling ads from fake news Mueller investigation focusing on social media's role in 2016 election: report MORE (Ind.) and Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers Whatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong Breitbart charts path for 2018 midterm races 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) ManchinOvernight Energy: EPA aims to work more closely with industry Overnight Finance: Lawmakers grill Equifax chief over hack | Wells Fargo CEO defends bank's progress | Trump jokes Puerto Rico threw budget 'out of whack' | Mortgage tax fight tests industry clout Lawmakers try again on miners’ pension bill 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 MurphyChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Murphy faces criticism from GOP challenger over fundraising email Democrat: Republicans who believe in more gun control afraid of being 'politically punished' 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 Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Crying on TV doesn't qualify Kimmel to set nation's gun agenda Trump knocks ‘fake’ news coverage of his trip to Puerto Rico MORE (N.Y.), are scrambling to limit defections from their ranks. 

Democratic Sens. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuYou want to recall John McCain? Good luck, it will be impossible CNN producer on new O'Keefe video: Voters are 'stupid,' Trump is 'crazy' CNN's Van Jones: O'Keefe Russia 'nothingburger' video 'a hoax' MORE (La.), Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBernie Sanders flexes power on single-payer ObamaCare architect supports single-payer system Trump has yet to travel west as president MORE (Mont.), Mark PryorMark 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 HeitkampWells Fargo chief defends bank's progress in tense Senate hearing Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Red-state Dems need more from Trump before tax embrace 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) TesterOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Overnight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot Senators grill ex-Equifax CEO over stock sales 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 HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (N.C.), another red-state Democrat up for reelection next year, supports it.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyKoch-backed group targets red-state Dems on tax reform Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Agricultural trade demands investment in MAP and FMD 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 KirkGiffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns Stale, misguided, divisive: minimum wage can't win elections Immigration critics find their champion in Trump MORE (Ill.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGun proposal picks up GOP support Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns Agricultural trade demands investment in MAP and FMD MORE (Maine) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA's woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy 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 AyotteDems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Stale, misguided, divisive: minimum wage can't win elections Trump voter fraud commission sets first meeting outside DC MORE (N.H.) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerNevada senators urge airlines to enact new policies after Las Vegas shooting Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers MORE (Nev.). Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAuthorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient Republicans jockey for position on immigration McCain, Flake warn against 'politically-motivated penalties' for Canadian defense firm MORE (R-Ariz.) on Monday night said he is opposed while Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Reddit hires first lobbyists Senate panel approves bill compelling researchers to ‘hack’ DHS MORE (R-Ohio) will likely vote “no.”

The gun control debate remained in flux Monday evening as Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Republicans are headed for a disappointing end to their year in power Obama's HHS secretary could testify in Menendez trial MORE (D-Nev.) and Republican leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform 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 GrassleyRepublicans jockey for position on immigration House clears bill to combat crimes against elderly Grassley: DACA deal wouldn't need border wall funding MORE (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDurbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub Republicans jockey for position on immigration Overnight Health Care: House passes 20-week abortion ban | GOP gives ground over ObamaCare fix | Price exit sets off speculation over replacement 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.