Reid coming up short on gun control bill

Harry Reid got enough votes to open debate on his gun-control bill and the Manchin-Toomey compromise on background checks, but closing debate is another matter. So says both the Washington Post and Politico, who have done some whip counting based on public statements.  Advocates had hoped to get the more moderate Johnny Isakson to swing to their side, but Isakson isn’t biting, says the Post:


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.

Reid has problems among his own caucus, too:

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.


These red-state Democrats had two options if they wanted to support this bill: pull the bandaid off quickly with an early endorsement, or fly under the radar and make a last-minute vote in favor.  If they are soliciting opinions from constituents, they are likely already lost causes.  Why raise your profile among voters — especially for incumbents facing them in 2014, like Pryor — if you plan to cast an unpopular vote?

The cloture vote will come as early as Thursday, so there isn’t much time to get back under the radar:

A cloture vote on the Manchin-Toomey could come by Thursday, Democrats said….

Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are attempting to hash out a floor procedure laying out votes on the Manchin-Toomey proposal.

If Democrasts cannot overcome a GOP filibuster on the background checks bill, any chances for major gun control legislation being enacted in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting would diminish dramatically.

With Republicans filibustering the Manchin-Toomey proposal, a cloture vote on the bill is likely to take place on Thursday at the earliest.

Reid is likely to lose three of his 55 Senate Democrats — Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.). All three Democrats said on Monday that they were still reviewing the proposal and would not commit to backing it.


Only four Republicans are considered solid for support: Toomey, obviously, and Mark Kirk, Susan Collins, and John McCain.  That adds up to 56 votes.  Four votes is a lot to gain in two days on a gun-control bill.

The ACLU, meanwhile, is backing away from an earlier warning about expanded background checks.  The bill’s original approach to expanded background checks had them raising red flags about the potential for the system to be transformed into a national registry, but now they say they are satisfied with the language in Manchin-Toomey.  Greg Sargent contacted the ACLU for an updated response:

Earlier this month, conservatives widely cited a Daily Caller interview with a top privacy lobbyist at the American Civil Liberties Union, in which he claimed he had “serious concerns” about the proposal to expand background checks. Opponents of the proposal — from the NRA to Senator Rand Paul – widely pointed to the ACLU’s concerns to buttress their argument that the proposal would be overly intrusive into people’s privacy and would create a government gun database.

But in an interview with me today, the same ACLU privacy lobbyist tells me those concerns have been resolved in the new compromise proposal put forth by Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin. Not only that, he said the language in the compromise proposal creates strongerprohibitions against any national gun registry than exist under current law. …

But Calabrese says the new Manchin-Toomey language deals with his objections — and then some. He points out that the bill says at the top: “Congress supports and reaffirms the existing prohibition on a national firearms registry.” And it also says: “Nothing in this title, or any amendment made by this title, shall be construed to…allow the establishment, directly or indirectly, of a Federal firearms registry.”

“The existing Manchin Toomey language is even stronger than current law in making it clear that none of these records can become part of a national gun registry,” Calabrese told me.

Calabrese also said he’s no longer concerned that “transfer” isn’t clearly defined enough, because it now specifies just what sort of private sale is covered — ones via commercial portals at gun shows and on the internet. “The Manchin Toomey language deals with that as well, because it makes pretty clear where you need a new background check requirement,” he said.


For what it’s worth, I don’t think conservatives will necessarily take the ACLU’s word for it. The notable feature for the Right of the ACLU’s initial postion (on the Schumer language that preceded the Manchin-Toomey compromise) was that it offered a statement-against-presumed-interests on the Left.  As I wrote at the time of the Manchin-Toomey deal, it’s very weak tea compared to where Democrats wanted to go and mainly reinforces the requirements already in place for commercial sales of firearms, while leaving private transfers alone.  Of all the potential outcomes in the gun bill that had a chance of seeing floor time in the Senate, it’s the least intrusive.  That doesn’t make it great, and it’s certainly not responsive to anything that happened at Newtown, but if this is all that passes after the last four months of demagoguery on this topic, it’s not a terrible outcome for gun owners.

Addendum: Does Manchin-Toomey have a prayer of passing the House if even a couple of Democrats oppose it in the Senate? I highly doubt it, which is another reason this won’t be a terrible outcome for gun owners.

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