Prospects for Trump gun deal grow dimmer

Prospects for a bipartisan deal on gun control legislation have dimmed significantly as President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE and Democratic leaders appear to be far apart on the key issue of expanding background checks.

Republicans expect Trump to put forward a proposal addressing gun violence later this week, but Democrats predict it is likely to fall far short of what is needed and that they may not vote for it.

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Democrats are pressing Trump to agree to a gun control bill already approved by the House, but the president has yet to even signal support for a scaled-down background check bill sponsored by Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump Manchin warns he'll slow-walk government funding bill until he gets deal on miners legislation MORE (D-W.Va.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.).

“I don’t think anyone thinks he’s going to endorse the Toomey bill, which is weaker than the House bill,” said a senior Democratic aide, expressing growing doubt on Capitol Hill that Trump will strike a bipartisan deal.

As a result, the likelihood that Congress will fail to take action on gun violence a month after a new spate of shootings across the country appears to be growing.

Republicans say the political momentum within their party to expand background checks suffered a blow last week when Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke declared, “hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15s, your AK-47s” at Thursday’s primary debate.

It was a big moment for O’Rourke’s campaign, but it underscored long-standing arguments from gun rights proponents that Democratic efforts on gun control are really aimed at the confiscation of firearms.

“This rhetoric undermines and hurts bipartisan efforts to actually make progress on commonsense gun safety efforts, like expanding background checks,” Toomey, who has been at the center of Senate negotiations, warned Friday.

It’s still possible the two parties could agree on some lower-hanging measures.

White House officials last week floated the idea of a new smartphone app that would be connected to the National

Instant Criminal Background Check System, which could be used to conduct background checks for sales between individuals who are not licensed dealers.

But it will be difficult for Democrats to agree to that proposal if it is a high watermark of what can be accepted by Republicans.

Manchin dismissed the idea of the smartphone app.

“The app’s crazy, totally crazy,” he said, arguing that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System works well as it is. “We have something that’s not broken, and they want to fix it and throw something at it. To throw that into a bill would be wrong.”

Similarly, Democrats are signaling that just passing “red flag” legislation that would empower law enforcement officials to confiscate firearms from people judged to be dangerous is not enough.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTurf war derails bipartisan push on surprise medical bills Senate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA CEO group pushes Trump, Congress on paid family, medical leave MORE (D-N.Y.) argued on the Senate floor Monday that without an expansion of background check requirements, even a person who had his or her firearm confiscated by the police could immediately purchase another one from an individual who is not a federally licensed dealer.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy On The Money: Trump, China announce 'Phase One' trade deal | Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records | House panel schedules hearing, vote on new NAFTA deal Schumer: Trump 'sold out' on China trade deal MORE (D-Conn.), a key negotiator who has had discussions with Trump on gun control, told reporters that the president needed to give them an affirmative sign by the end of last week in order to keep momentum from dying in Congress.

“My worry is that the forces inside the White House that are representing the gun lobby may be prevailing,” Murphy told reporters Monday. “I think that’s a shame.”

“They told us we would hear back by Thursday and we didn’t hear anything on Thursday or Friday or Saturday or Sunday,” he added. “Silence is probably indicative that they’re not willing to move.”

Manchin also sounded a pessimistic note.

“I haven’t heard back from their staff,” said Manchin, who panned the idea of creating a new smartphone app to conduct background checks.

Senate Republican Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn House GOP lawmaker wants Senate to hold 'authentic' impeachment trial Republicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial MORE (S.D.) said Monday afternoon that Trump is still reviewing his options, and a senior Republican aide said the White House is expected to present a plan to GOP leaders later this week.

“I think they’re looking at that and a whole range of issues, but I don’t think they’ve come to any conclusions,”

Thune, who met with Trump last week, said when asked about the prospect of the president endorsing expanded background checks.

Still, as more days pass without progress, gun control advocates in the Senate are growing increasingly pessimistic.

“It’s typical of the president and his statements on controversial issues. He’s on the side of the American people until he’s on the side of the special interest,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial Lawmakers introduce bill taxing e-cigarettes to pay for anti-vaping campaigns Senators zero in on shadowy court at center of IG report MORE (Ill.).

Conservatives are already warning the White House and GOP leaders of a backlash from gun rights advocates if Trump endorses a proposal to expand background checks to all online and gun show sales, as envisioned by the Manchin-Toomey bill.

“If Republicans abandon the Second Amendment and demoralize millions of Americans who care deeply about Second Amendment rights, that could go a long way to electing a President Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump executive order aimed at combating anti-Semitism stirs up controversy Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute MORE,” Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 Democrats trading jabs ahead of Los Angeles debate Senate Republicans air complaints to Trump administration on trade deal MORE (R-Texas) warned last week, referring to the liberal Massachusetts senator, who is running for president.

A senior Republican aide on Monday expressed skepticism that Trump will endorse legislation that would significantly expand background checks, such as the Manchin-Toomey bill or the universal background check measure passed by the House in February.

In a call on Sunday with Schumer and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiUSMCA is nice but no model Anti-impeachment Democrat poised to switch parties Grassley urges White House to help farmers in year-end tax talks MORE (D-Calif.), Trump made no commitment on the House bill, according to two officials familiar with the call.

Jordain Carney contributed.