Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.), who have been supported in the past by the NRA and have been negotiating a bill on expanded background checks, are planning a news conference Wednesday morning at which the details of a deal could be announced, people familiar with the negotiations said.
The developments came on a day in which the subject of gun control — and emotional reminders of gun violence — overtook Washington. On Capitol Hill, relatives of those killed in December’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., made solemn visits to senators’ offices. On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) mentioned his father’s death by self-inflicted gunshot.
The Democratic-led Senate is expected to reject President Obama’s proposals to ban military-style assault rifles and to limit the size of high-capacity magazines. And even Obama’s proposals for expanded background checks could be watered down. The NRA is working on alternatives that could be introduced during a Senate debate.
In an ominous sign for the president, at least two Democratic senators — Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Max Baucus (Mont.) — said Tuesday that they are unsure whether they can support him.
On Thursday, the Senate is scheduled to vote on a “motion to proceed” — essentially giving itself permission to consider a gun-control bill.
Sixty votes are needed to overcome a filibuster threatened by some conservative Republicans, and the votes appear to be there.
“I am not going to join in a filibuster against bringing the bill to the floor as long as there is ample opportunity for amendments,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). She was one of at least eight Republicans who seemed likely to join with most of the 55 Democrats in voting to proceed.
On Tuesday — even before it formally began — the gun debate appeared to be something different on Capitol Hill. That was evident in the halls of the Senate office buildings, where a small group of people moved silently among the talkative crowds of tourists, staff members and glad-handers with name tags.
They were relatives of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, 11 people representing eight families. They wouldn’t say whom they were planning to meet with.
It was an attempt to influence politics, without giving up the power or privacy of their grief.
“We’re not political. We’re just moms and dads and husbands and wives,” said Bill Sherlach, whose wife, Mary Sherlach, a psychologist at Sandy Hook, was killed along with five other women and 20 children on Dec. 14. “We see the obvious, and we’re not caught up in the political trappings.”