Reid: Background checks picking up new votes

Background checks aren't dead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday, citing political blowback that he believes is generating more support for the compromise worked out by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

Reid told Las Vegas Review Journal reporters that Manchin called him recently to say that he thinks he has "a couple more votes" for the legislation. The Post has learned that at least two Republican senators who voted against the bipartisan proposal have approached Democrats in recent days about possibly restarting debate on the issue, according to two senior Senate aides familiar with the talks.

"Joe Manchin called me yesterday. He thinks he has a couple more votes," Reid said during a brown-bag lunch. He added that Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), the only senator from the Northeast to vote against the measure, has been taking a lot of heat back home for her vote.

"Wham! Man has she been hit hard," Reid said in the interview. "She went from a hugely positive number in New Hampshire -- her negatives now outweigh her positives. She is being hit every place she goes."

Reid was referencing a recent automated Public Policy Polling survey that found Ayotte down 15 points from October, with 46 percent of voters disapproving and 44 percent approving of her job performance.

That feedback, he predicted, would change the calculus in the Senate. While Reid did avoid a filibuster on the legislation (after his own chief of staff, he told the newspaper, bet that he wouldn't) an agreement was made to hold all gun-related amendments to a 60-vote threshold and the background checks expansion failed 54 to 46. That includes Reid changing his vote to "Nay" in order to be able to bring the legislation back up at a later date. So supporters need five more votes.

"We're going to pick up some more votes," he said. "I may be able to get another Democrat or two. That would get us up to 57 and we may only need three Republicans, additional Republicans. So we'll see."

Organizing for America, the group formed out of President Obama's reelection campaign, also is arguing that local press and grassroots activism is keeping the background checks legislation in play.

"It's incredibly important at this point that we make sure people are held accountable for what they did in this vote and that we show that we have the staying power on our side on this issue," OFA Executive Director Jon Carson told reporters on a conference call Monday. "I believe our tactics are absolutely working."

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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