President Obama will not get his vote on gun control in the Senate on Wednesday. Or, at least, not on a package of bills that could pass. The Manchin-Toomey compromise that was meant to save the package did not work, said one of its sponsors.
The compromise would have expanded the background check system to include sales at gun shows and many private sales, was meant to replace a much-stricter proposal from Senator Chuck Schumer of New York which faces strong opposition from Republicans. Crafted by Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, it quickly became apparent that the compromise would face an uphill climb, despite efforts to further refine it. Late yesterday, when Alaska's Lisa Murkowski came out against the idea, it became apparent that at least 40 senators would oppose ending the Republican-led filibuster on the amendment. Meaning: No actual "up or down" vote, as proponents have sought — including the president, during his State of the Union speech.
According to the tally we've been keeping, there are 43 Senators who are either declared no votes or likely to vote no and just 53 on the yes side.
Data from various sources.
This morning, Manchin conceded defeat.
Sen. Joe Manchin tells me "we will not get the votes today" expanded background checks to fail in Senate. Try again he says.— Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO) April 17, 2013
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke from the Senate floor shortly afterward, arguing strongly in support of the measure. Some opponents, like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, have argued that the background check expansion would create a national gun registry. Holding up the bill and noting where it excludes that possibility, Reid address that directly. "Claims that this bill would create a gun registry," he said, "is nothing but shameful scare tactics."
Whether or not that last-ditch push is convincing will be known in a few hours. Votes on the full package will begin at 4 p.m., according to the Huffington Post's Ethan Klapper.
The Senate holds votes on nine gun bill amendments starting at 4 p.m. today, in this order (Manchin-Toomey first) twitter.com/ethanklapper/s…— Ethan Klapper (@ethanklapper) April 17, 2013
The main bill, which will be considered after all of the amendments, includes three parts: an increase in school safety funding, tighter laws around trafficking firearms, and the expansive Schumer bakcground check bill. If that last proposal isn't amended out, it's not likely that the package will pass. Nor will most of those amendments: the Republican-backed proposals will likely not find support in a Democrat-led Senate; the Democrat-backed ones — like Feinstein's assault weapons ban and the Lautenberg high-capacity clip ban — face a majority of opposition.
Failure to pass even compromise legislation in the Senate makes it highly unlikely that the House will pass anything advocates find palatable — if the House passes anything at all.
The Washington Post's Greg Sargent summarized the view of many observers.
At this point, if Toomey Manchin dies, it's because a few red state Ds won't allow simple majority vote on proposal backed by 90%— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) April 16, 2013
That's not entirely fair; only three Republicans have joined Toomey in supporting the measure, leaving a coalition of every Democrat and Independent still one vote shy of the 60 needed to rebut a filibuster. It is true, though, that a majority of the Senate supports the compromise bill, but it will still not pass.
It is also true that a large majority of the American population also supports the measure. Yesterday, the Post and ABC released a new poll to that effect.
Most senators agree with them. But that's not nearly enough for it to become law.
Update, 4:27 p.m.: The Manchin-Toomey amendment is killed after the Senate fails to end the filibuster. The vote total: 54 in support of ending debate, 46 opposed. From the gallery, someone yelled, "Shame on you!"