Manchin said the plan would force both sides to make concessions. “All of them have to look at it and say: Listen, are the gun show loopholes closed? Absolutely,” he said. “Are Internet sales stopped from proliferating to a much larger degree? Absolutely. Did we create new law? No. We expanded on existing law. The things the NRA would love are in this bill.”
The men have a delicate sales job ahead. Pro-gun lawmakers and the NRA could seek to block it or offer amendments to undermine the compromise, and some lawmakers were already vowing they would do so as the legislation begins to move later this week.
Even if the measure were to pass the Democratic-led Senate, it would face stiff odds in the Republican-led House.
The Senate is set to vote Thursday on a “motion to proceed” to consider a gun-control bill that will be offered by Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and eventually include the Toomey-Manchin proposal. Sixty votes are needed to overcome a filibuster threatened by some conservative Republicans, and supporters appear to have secured them.
The push by Toomey and Manchin to carefully woo conservatives came into play even in the choreography of Wednesday’s announcement. Toomey asked Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) not to appear at the news conference, and he consented, said several aides familiar with the talks.
The conservative group Heritage Action criticized the bill and its GOP sponsor, issuing a press release Wednesday stating, “We expect more of Pat Toomey.”
Coburn was critical, saying the plan would encourage criminals to find loopholes. “Why wouldn’t you just make an agreement to make the purchase later after the gun show?” Coburn asked.
Behind the scenes, gun industry advocates were divided and uncertain, according to people familiar with the deliberations. Despite the NRA’s opposition, “we are looking closely at this proposal and examining its merits,” said one longtime industry advocate, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal thinking. Another, Richard Feldman, a former NRA political director and lobbyist for manufacturers, said he is “enthusiastically in support.”
Late Wednesday, the NRA’s chief lobbyist wrote to members of the Senate restating opposition to the proposal and other “antigun” measures and vowing to review votes on those proposals and related procedural actions when evaluating a candidate’s suitability for NRA support.
At the same time, a group recently formed by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband, Mark Kelly, promised to campaign against senators who try to block consideration of the legislation.
David A. Fahrenthold, Aaron Blake, Scott Wilson and Sari Horwitz contributed to this report.
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