Toomey on gun reform: 'Beto O'Rourke is not helping'

Toomey on gun reform: 'Beto O'Rourke is not helping'
© Greg Nash

Sen. 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.) said on Sunday that Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeButtigieg picks up third congressional endorsement from New York lawmaker Klobuchar hires staff in Nevada Deval Patrick enters 2020 race MORE is not helping the effort to pass gun reform legislation.

"I do think Beto O'Rourke does not help things," Toomey said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

O'Rourke, a former Texas congressman, has come out in support of a mandatory gun buyback program for assault-style weapons, such as those that have been used in many of the nation's deadly mass shootings.

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While few of O'Rourke's presidential primary opponents have also come out in support of a similar plan, O'Rourke has been criticized from both sides of the aisle for his strong rhetoric during the debate earlier this month, when he said, "hell yes we're going to take your AR-15, AK-47."

"That's not helpful to this conversation," Toomey said on Sunday.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Democratic senator says he knows 'handful' of GOP colleagues considering vote to remove Trump Both sides have reason to want speedy Trump impeachment trial MORE (D-Conn.), however, on the same show  pushed back on the criticism that O'Rourke may have set back the gun reform fight with his comments.

"I think Republicans who don’t want to vote for a background checks bill are going to look for any excuse to do it. Beto’s comments may be their latest hook, but the fact of the matter is if Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades MORE supports a bill that expands background checks we will get 60 votes for it in the Senate," Murphy said.

A spokesperson for O'Rourke's campaign was not immediately available for comment.

He has continued to defend his remarks in the wake of pushback within his party, saying a ban on assault-style weapons would not affect those weapons already purchased.

Toomey and Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinStatesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges Both sides have reason to want speedy Trump impeachment trial No one wins with pro-abortion litmus test MORE (D-W.Va.) co-authored background checks legislation in 2013 and the House passed a universal background check bill in February.

The Pennsylvania Republican said on Sunday that he's "hopeful" the legislation he co-authored may pass soon.

"Look I think there's momentum now we didn’t have before," he said, adding that there is "broader interest among Republican senators."

"I am hopeful and going to keep pushing," Toomey said.

Several Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKey House and Senate health leaders reach deal to stop surprise medical bills Biden: 'No party should have too much power' Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill MORE (D-Ky.), have said they won't support a bill that Trump has not said he would support.

Trump has flip-flopped on his support for a background check bill in recent weeks.

NBC host Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddChuck Todd challenges Cruz after senator pushes theory that Ukraine meddled in election Retiring House Democrat says a Trump reelection would be a 'nightmare scenario' for Congress Cruz on House impeachment inquiry: 'This is 'kangaroo court' MORE asked Toomey if at some point Republicans have to force Trump's hand and vote on a bill.

"Well the problem is if we attempt to force the president's hand and pass something it very well might not pass," Toomey said.

--This report was updated at 11:55 a.m.