Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Thursday offered a staunch defense of their deal to expand background checks on gun purchasers, but appeared divided over the measure’s prospects of becoming law ahead of a long fight in the Senate.
“I think we got a few voting hurdles and I don’t know how they will turn out,” said Toomey in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.
Manchin, appearing on the same, show though was more optimistic, when asked if they had 60 votes in support.
Their comments came hours before the Senate votes on moving forward with gun control legislation. While Toomey expressed optimism the upper chamber would vote to begin debate on gun control, he said he and Manchin would need to work hard to ensure passage of their measure and the overall gun bill.
"There's a wide range of opinion on the Republican side about this, no doubt about that," Toomey said in a separate interview on CBS's "This Morning.” "We'll have a vote today on whether on we can proceed to the underlying bill. I think we’ll get there. That’s a 60 vote threshold. I think we’ll get to the 60 votes. That will begin to tell us the direction this might take. And beyond that, I just don’t think we know yet."
Toomey and Manchin unveiled their deal on Wednesday, proposing legislation which would expand background checks for all firearm sales at gun shows and over the internet.
Earlier attempts to craft a bipartisan compromise on background checks faltered amid GOP concerns the measure would cover transfers of firearms between family members and could lead to a registry of all gun owners. The Manchin-Toomey deal exempts family transactions and the senators stressed that it would not establish a federal database with records on gun owners.
But the measure faces a tough fight in Congress, with the National Rifle Association saying it would score senators on the background check deal and on the cloture vote. A bloc of Republican senators has vowed to filibuster any effort to enact more gun controls.
Toomey said the bill would not infringe on the rights of lawful gun owners, and urged the public to “read the bill” and press their lawmakers to support it.
“We’ve got to reach 60 votes, actually several times in the process for this to go all the way … that’s going to take some public support,” acknowledged Toomey on MSNBC.
The measure has faced criticism both from gun-rights advocates who say it goes too far and from gun-control proponents who argue that the measure is toothless and carves out too many exemptions.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), one of the senators that's threatened to block the Senate majority leader from bringing gun legislation to the Senate floor, said Wednesday that if Congress does pass new gun restrictions, that would hurt the reelection chances of Democrats up for reelection in 2014. Toomey said he did not know how the gun debates would affect the 2014 elections and his own political future.
"I have no idea. I’m not of this cycle, I’m of the following cycle," Toomey said. "I’m just very confident, I know this does nothing to infringe the rights of law-abiding citizens — if it did, I wouldn’t be for it. And I really feel pretty comfortable defending the proposition that it makes a lot of sense trying to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
“I’m very confident I can defend that," said Toomey.