Jay Carney tries to keep hope alive on guns

White House press secretary Jay Carney speaks to reporters about the so-called "sequester" at the White House in Washington February 28, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

White House press secretary Jay Carney speaks to reporters about the so-called "sequester" at the White House in Washington February 28, 2013.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

One in an occasional series of observational pieces keyed off the White House daily briefing.

The rest of Washington might have already declared a bipartisan gun control measure dead before it lost 54-56, but White House press secretary Jay Carney was having none of it shortly before the vote.

Appearing somewhat emotional at times during his mid-day briefing, Carney repeatedly failed to deliver a post-mortem on the proposal by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WVa.) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) to strengthen background checks on gun sales, which needed 60 votes to overcome Republican opposition.

"What I won’t do, as a rule, is give post-game analysis before the game is over," Carney told ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I still think that each senator has to decide for himself or herself how they're going to vote, ultimately. What they tell the press or what they tweet about is not the same as what they vote. And there is an opportunity for 60 senators to do the right thing."

At times the White House spokesman seemed to be trying to shame senators who oppose expanded background checks, a measure supported by nearly 90 percent of Americans.

"What's complicated about the fact that 90 percent of the American people want this done? And yet a substantial percentage of the Senate at least seems to disagree with the vast majority of the American people," Carney said. "They disagree with the vast majority of the people of their states."

When a reporter chimed in, "And the president," Carney retorted, "It's not about the president. They disagree with the families of Newtown. They disagree with those who still grieve over their losses in Aurora. It's about them, OK?"

While he did not single out specific senators opposed to the Manchin-Toomey compromise, the spokesman questioned why the bill amounted to a heavy political lift given current polling.

"And so you have to wonder why this is so hard. Why -- you know, who are -- the senators who are voting no, if they vote no, represent the very people who have said overwhelmingly that they want this done," he said. "And that's a -- that's a shame.

Carney was circumspect about whether Obama would continue to speak to the nation about gun violence even if the Senate voted down the Manchin-Toomey compromise.

"And I'm not going to predict the future, because the future that you're asking about is predicated upon failure of this legislation," he replied. "And, you know, we're not ready to concede that."

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