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 IsaksonSenate faces critical vote on Puerto Rico GOP senators: Obama bathroom guidance is 'not appropriate' Amateur theatrics: An insult to Africa 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 CorkerSenate honors Tennessee coach Pat Summitt GOP senator: Something 'very, very good' can come from Brexit vote GOP senators: Brexit vote a wake-up call MORE (Tenn.), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderSenators press Obama education chief on reforms Senate honors Tennessee coach Pat Summitt Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote MORE (Tenn.), John HoevenJohn HoevenDeath threats against senators remained on Twitter for 2 weeks Senate panel approves funding boost for TSA Overnight Energy: Senate Dems block energy, water bill a third time MORE (N.D.), Dan CoatsDan CoatsBipartisan gun measure survives test vote Senate panel advances nominee who Democrats blasted on Social Security Lobbying World MORE (Ind.) and Roger WickerRoger WickerMenendez rails against Puerto Rico bill for 4 hours on floor Rubio will run for reelection Lawmakers push first responder network on rural service 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 MurphyReid backs House Puerto Rico bill Meet the man who sparked the Democratic revolt on guns The Hill's 12:30 Report 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 SchumerFormer Gillibrand aide wins NY House primary Senate faces critical vote on Puerto Rico Juan Williams: GOP sounds the sirens over Trump MORE (N.Y.), are scrambling to limit defections from their ranks.
Democratic Sens. Mary LandrieuMary Landrieu oil is changing the world and Washington Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Republican announces bid for Vitter’s seat MORE (La.), Max BaucusMax BaucusGlover Park Group now lobbying for Lyft Wyden unveils business tax proposal College endowments under scrutiny MORE (Mont.), Mark PryorMark PryorEx-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood Ex-Sen. Landrieu joins law and lobby firm MORE (Ark.), Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampGun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA McConnell quashes Senate effort on guns Senators roll out bipartisan gun proposal 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 TesterBernie Sanders’s awkward return to the Senate Senators roll out bipartisan gun proposal Congress should stop government hacking and protect the Fourth Amendment 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 Hagan10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2016 Senate Republicans are feeling the 'Trump effect' Washington's lobby firms riding high MORE (N.C.), another red-state Democrat up for reelection next year, supports it.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyOvernight Finance: Trump threatens NAFTA withdrawal | Senate poised for crucial Puerto Rico vote | Ryan calls for UK trade deal | Senate Dems block Zika funding deal Senate Democrats block Zika agreement ahead of recess Post Orlando, hawks make a power play 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 KirkSenate panel approves 0M for international climate fund Senator calls for pause in accepting Syrian refugees after Istanbul attack Overnight Healthcare: Blame game over Zika funding MORE (Ill.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSenators press Obama education chief on reforms GOP senator: Trump endorsement could depend on VP Senate panel approves 0M for international climate fund MORE (Maine) and John McCainJohn McCainMcCain wants hearings on lifting of military's transgender ban Needed: a presidential candidate that can pass the ‘burning house test' Group hopes to have independent candidate by end of July 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 AyotteClean energy group backs two GOP incumbents Senator calls for pause in accepting Syrian refugees after Istanbul attack GOP Senate super-PAC reserves M in airtime MORE (N.H.) and Dean HellerDean HellerGun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA Long past time to fix evidence-sharing across borders Obama's great internet giveaway MORE (Nev.). Sen. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeGOP senator: Trump could lose Arizona McConnell quashes Senate effort on guns Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote MORE (R-Ariz.) on Monday night said he is opposed while Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanClean energy group backs two GOP incumbents Overnight Finance: Trump threatens NAFTA withdrawal | Senate poised for crucial Puerto Rico vote | Ryan calls for UK trade deal | Senate Dems block Zika funding deal Overnight Energy: Volkswagen reaches .7B settlement over emissions MORE (R-Ohio) will likely vote “no.”
The gun control debate remained in flux Monday evening as Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidIowa poll: Clinton up 14 on Trump, Grassley in tight race with Dem Lynch meeting with Bill Clinton creates firestorm for email case The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Nev.) and Republican leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellBusiness groups ramp up pressure to fill Ex-Im board Senate Dems: No August break without Zika deal Never Trump plots its last stand 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 GrassleyIowa poll: Clinton up 14 on Trump, Grassley in tight race with Dem Immigration protesters interrupt Jeh Johnson hearing Pollster: Clinton leads in 5 battlegrounds MORE (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamOvernight Defense: US blames ISIS for Turkey attack | Afghan visas in spending bill | Army rolls up its sleeves Senate panel passes bill that would create 4K visas for Afghans Trump: Rivals who don't back me shouldn't be allowed to run for office 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.