Uncertainty over the fate of the proposal, in the form of an amendment to the underlying gun bill, came as the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights proponents intensified their efforts to defeat the measure by warning that even some of the elements in the plan that are supposed to be “pro-gun” could undermine Second Amendment rights.
The primary authors of the amendment, Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) spent most of Monday lobbying wavering colleagues with phone calls, letters, discreet in-person meetings and personal deliveries, as Manchin deployed his office interns Monday afternoon to distribute copies of the proposal to each senator’s office.
“What we’re talking about is not creating any new laws, we’re talking about uniforming the laws that we have,” Manchin said in afternoon speech on the Senate floor.
In an effort to win the support of some undecided rural-state senators, Manchin and Toomey were discussing the possibility Monday of adding language that would exempt select far-flung communities in Alaska and North Dakota from some background check requirements, according to Senate aides familiar with the talks. Such exceptions could help win the support of Alaska’s senators Mark Begich (D) and Lisa Murkowski (R) and North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, a moderate with an A-rating from the NRA.
The amendment will require at least 60 votes to clear Senate procedural rules and ensure final passage, but it still lacks sufficient support, based on an analysis by The Washington Post. The votes of just 22 of 100 senators are in play, including the 16 Republicans who voted last week to proceed with debate on the gun bill and six moderate Democrats who face difficult reelections in 2014 or represent rural states with strong gun cultures and would face strong political pressure at home for supporting new gun-control legislation.
Among the Republicans, at least nine said said Monday that they plan to vote against the Manchin-Toomey deal: Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.).
Isakson’s decision is especially disappointing to gun-control groups, who hoped he would vote in favor of the plan after supporting similar proposals when he served in the Georgia state legislature.
Among the six Democrats, Sen. Kay Hagan (N.C.) announced Monday that she will vote for the plan. Spokesmen for the five other Democrats — Max Baucus (Mont.), Begich, Heitkamp, Mary Landrieu (La.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) — said Monday that the senators were reviewing the proposal and soliciting input from constituents before making a decision.