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Prospects for Trump gun deal grow dimmer

Prospects for a bipartisan deal on gun control legislation have dimmed significantly as President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race 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) ManchinMajor unions back Fudge for Agriculture secretary Voters split on eliminating the filibuster: poll OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (D-W.Va.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyAppeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy 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 SchumerChuck SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn 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 MurphyDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Biden decides on pick for secretary of State Overnight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses 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 ThuneDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump keeps tight grip on GOP amid divisions 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 DurbinDick DurbinWhitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Durbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel 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 WarrenBiden: 'Difficult decision' to staff administration with House, Senate members The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience On The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus MORE,” Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOcasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview 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 PelosiSpending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation Rep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-Calif.), Trump made no commitment on the House bill, according to two officials familiar with the call.

Jordain Carney contributed.