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Manchin, Toomey say background check bill will likely fall short

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday privately conceded to a reporter that he fears his background check proposal will not earn enough votes to pass in the Senate.

NBC reporter Kelly O’Donnell tweeted Wednesday that Manchin told her “we will not get the votes today.”

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Manchin and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) crafted a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks to gun shows and online sales, but the measure is struggling to find the 60 votes needed in the face of gun lobby opposition.

Toomey echoed Manchin's statement Wednesday morning.

"As we sit here this morning, we don’t have the votes," Toomey told National Review. 

"Now, there are enough undecided people that it’s still possible, but I’ll be the first to admit that there is a very, very narrow path to get to 60 votes," Toomey said.

Manchin’s office said in a statement that the senator “remains optimistic and hopeful that if Senators and the American people read the bill, they will support his commonsense approach to require criminal and mental background checks for advertised sales, including purchases at gun shows and online sales, without infringing on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.”

“So far Senator Manchin has managed to garner support from an A-rated NRA member and three Republican Senators as well as 90 percent of his own party. With a record like that, I see no reason to bet against Senator Manchin today. He will continue to explain his bill to his colleagues and anyone with concerns until the minute they vote,” spokesman Jonathan Kott said in a statement.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Manchin expressed anger at the National Rifle Association (NRA), accusing the gun lobby of lying about his bill to muster opposition. 

Manchin said the NRA claimed the background check proposal introduced by him and Toomey outlaws the private sale of firearms.

"Now when they're basically so disingenuous, they're telling members — and I quote, 'criminalize the private transfer of fire arms by citizens,' " Manchin said. "It is a lie."

The Manchin-Toomey measure excludes sales or transfers between family members and some close associates from the expanded background checks.

"The only thing I'm saying is someone made a mistake in that quote. I would hope they would correct that because if they lose credibility they lose everything in Washington," Manchin said. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to hold a vote on the measure on Wednesday, despite the fact that Democrats do not seem to have the votes to pass the proposal. 

Manchin, though, said he would continue to seek support and on MSNBC expressed optimism that he could find the votes the bill needed.

— This story was posted at 8:54 a.m. and has been updated.