Joe Manchin: Won’t get votes today on background checks

By JOHN BRESNAHAN and KEVIN ROBILLARD | 4/17/13 8:29 AM EDT Updated: 4/17/13 10:57 AM EDT

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin privately admitted on Wednesday morning what many on Capitol Hill already believed — that a proposal to expand background checks on firearms won’t pass when the Senate votes later today.

“We will not get the votes today,” Manchin told an NBC reporter, who later posted his comments on Twitter.

Manchin backtracked on his earlier comments when appeared minutes later on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” saying he still hopes to get the votes, especially Republican support.

“We have over 90 percent of the Senate Democrats that will vote affirmative,” Manchin said.”If we just had 20 percent of our Republican colleagues — that’s not a heavy ask, it’s not a heavy lift, only 20 percent, that’s nine members, nine members — this thing would be home.”

But Manchin’s comments highlight the challenges facing President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats as they move to the most important congressional vote on gun control in years, and one they look likely to lose – what comes next?

And if they cannot defeat the powerful National Rifle Association and gun rights supporters even after December’s tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., when can they win?

Wednesday morning, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, the last GOP undecided, said she would oppose the measure.

If the proposal from Manchin and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) fails to get the needed 60 votes – as predicted – Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-Nev.) could send the gun bill back to committee, allowing Manchin and the White House more time to try to win GOP support. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been working the phones in recent days, imploring undecided senators from both parties to back the bill, seemingly to no avail.

(PHOTOS: Politicians speak out on gun control)

Reid could also force a final vote on a more stringent gun-control package — one Reid knows he’ll lose — and let Democrats try to exploit the Republican intransigence on guns during the 2014 elections, when control of the Senate is at stake.

The pro-gun control groups, including Mayors Against Illegal Guns, funded by billionaire New York City Mayor Mike Bloomerg, expect to win a majority of votes on the Manchin-Toomey amendment but fail to reach the 60 votes required to adopt it. The groups “hopefully” believe they can defeat a proposal by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) that would allow “concealed carry” permit holders to carry their guns in other states, as well as Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley’s alternative gun bill.

From there, pro-gun control forces will reconnoiter and try again to build a coalition to find 60 votes for a background checks bill, though there is an understanding that such an effort won’t come quickly.

For their part, Reid aides were tight-lipped Wednesday morning on his plans if Manchin-Toomey fails.

Reid, who was lobbying his undecided members late into Tuesday night, went to the floor this morning and made an emotional appeal for the proposal.

The Nevada Democrat even announced that he would be voting in favor an assault weapons ban offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a measure that Reid has opposed in the past.

“Today this august body will honor the memory of 20 first-grade children, little babies who were gunned down, most of them shot multiple times,” Reid said. “We will also honor the teachers and administrators who were killed that day in Newton, Conn.”

Reid denied that the bill would create a national gun registry, as opponents have claimed, and he warned that lawmakers who stand in the way of new gun-control measures could suffer politically.

“If any of my colleagues wish to vote against stronger background checks, go ahead and do it and oppose the will of the American people. That’s their right,” Reid said. “But the American people have a long, long memory. To vote against something that 90 percent of the American people want, the American people aren’t going to forget about that.”

On MSNBC, Manchin also accused the NRA of lying about his bill.

“I’m a lifetime member of the NRA, I think you all know that, and I’ve been a proud card-carrier,” Manchin said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I used to get their magazines and their bulletins and I said ‘My goodness, I’m glad they are fighting that. I’m against that too.’ But when when they are basically so disingenuous and telling members that our legislation would, I quote, ‘criminalize the private transfer of firearms by private citizens.’ This bill does not even touch” private sales.

“That’s just a lie, Joe,” host Joe Scarborough told Manchin.

“It is a lie, Joe,” Manchin said in response.

Author: John Bresnahan (jbresnahan@politico.com)

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4 Responses to Joe Manchin: Won’t get votes today on background checks

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