Four Republicans, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona, have all publicly committed to vote for it. But even if all the Democrats and both independents in the Senate backed the proposal, that would still be short of the magic total of 60 needed to beat a filibuster. And not all Democrats do back it.
It's uncertain how much impact on senators there will be from support for the proposal announced Sunday by two gun-rights organizations—the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and the Independent Firearms Owners Association. The splintering of gun rights advocates could make a difference. But, with its huge budget and intimidation-inducing ranking of congressional votes on gun legislation, the gorilla in the room remains the National Rifle Association. And it is adamantly opposed, having made an argument that amounts to a rejection of the existing background check law.
Toomey said on CNN's State of the Union Sunday: “I think it’s an open question as to whether or not we have the votes. I think it’s going to be close.” Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia appeared with Toomey in a joint interview on CBS's Face the Nation Sunday:
“We came here to do something. [...] “We’ve got a chance to make a difference in people’s lives. We have a chance to save lives and not infringe on law-abiding citizens of this country, gun owners like myself and Pat. We have that opportunity, and, God help us, if we don’t do it.”As it stands, at least seven of the 16 Republicans who voted for cloture last week have made it clear they oppose the background check law: Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bob Corker of Tennessee, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Two others, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, are also likely no votes.
Three other Republicans who voted for cloture have yet to offer hints on how they will vote on the proposal: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Dean Heller of Nevada.
Please continue reading below the fold for more analysis of the background-check compromise's chances of passage.
Republicans aren't the only foes. Democrats Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who both voted against cloture, will also oppose the bill. Max Baucus of Montana is still considering his decision but has given strong indications that he will be opposed, as have freshman Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.
Kay Hagan of North Carolina, on the other hand, long considered an uncertain vote, said Monday that she backs Manchin-Toomey. The 89-year-old Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, who could be counted on as a "aye" vote, has been in ill health and absent from the Senate for months, which was the reason only 99 senators voted on cloture last week.
And as if these question marks were not enough, there is a possibility it won't just be red-state Democrats who oppose the background-check proposal but some in the party's left wing, especially if Republican amendments are approved that loosen gun regulations.
That left-leaning opposition centers on gun-rights provisions that were added to the proposal to lure Republicans. Not so coincidentally, those objections are the very reasons that the 41-year-old, 650,000-member Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms likes the proposal:
“If you read the Manchin-Toomey substitute amendment, you can see all the advances for our cause that it contains like interstate sales of handguns, veteran gun rights restoration, travel with firearms protection civil and criminal immunity lawsuit protection, and most important of all, the guarantee that people, including federal officers, will go to federal prison for up to 15 years if they attempt to use any gun sales records to set up a gun registry,” said the chairman of the group, Allan Gottlieb, in a statement.The "draconian" proposal is the one Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York placed in the current three-part gun bill. It would mandate that almost all private gun sales be covered by background checks—not just those at gun shows, over the internet and advertised in some public medium—and require record-keeping that gun-rights advocates oppose, claiming it is a prelude to firearms confiscation despite the fact that the existing background-check law and the 79-year-old machine-gun registry has led to no such gun seizures.
“These advances for gun rights cannot be made unless we win the Senate vote on Tuesday to substitute Sens. Manchin and Toomey’s balanced approach for the current draconian background check bill that is pending before the Senate at this time,” he added.
Making predictions on the outcome on background checks is a fool's game. But something you can just about be sure of: If it does pass the Senate it will be even weaker than the watered-down version that Sens. Manchin and Toomey have drafted.