By Bob Cusack - 04/15/13 09:00 AM EDT
A bipartisan bill on background checks is inching closer to the necessary 60 votes for passage, but it still has a long way to go.
The upcoming vote on a new proposal crafted by Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels Dem senator: Sanders ‘doesn’t have a lot of answers’ Groups urge Senate to oppose defense language on for-profit colleges MORE (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is expected to go down to the wire. The Hill on Friday contacted many Senate offices to find out their positions on the amendment, which is strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association (NRA).
There are a dozen other Republicans who voted for a motion to proceed on the gun control bill last week, including Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteSenators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief fears sequestration's return Senate GOP ties Iran sanctions fight to defense bill MORE (N.H.), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeDem senators call for sanctions on Congo McCain urges sports leagues to return 'paid patriotism' money Overnight Tech: House GOP launches probe into phone, internet subsidies MORE (Ariz.), Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissWyden hammers CIA chief over Senate spying Cruz is a liability Inside Paul Ryan’s brain trust MORE (Ga.), Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonGOP senators: Obama bathroom guidance is 'not appropriate' Amateur theatrics: An insult to Africa Dem senator blocks push to tie 'gun ban' to spending bill MORE (Ga.), Roger WickerRoger WickerSenate votes to block USDA catfish inspections GOP senators: Obama bathroom guidance is 'not appropriate' Senate Republicans ask Trump to soften his tone MORE (Miss.) and Dean HellerDean HellerLake Mead hits record low water level Tough choice for vulnerable GOP senators: Embrace or reject Trump Press: Forget about GOP unity in 2016 MORE (Nev.).
Flake on Friday was reviewing the bill, while Heller's office said the senator "will not support any plan that creates a federal gun registry." Corker "would not support Toomey-Manchin as written but is open to supporting amendments to achieve what he believes is the central issue: preventing violence by dangerous, mentally ill people," according to a Monday statement from his office. Chambliss has made it clear that he opposes the underlying gun control bill that is headed to the Senate floor. Wicker said on C-SPAN Monday morning that he is opposed to the Manchin-Toomey amendment.
To pass Manchin-Toomey, at least five Republicans must back it. Fifty-five senators caucus with the Democrats, but not all are sure bets to embrace the background check legislation.
Sens. Mark PryorMark PryorEx-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood Ex-Sen. Landrieu joins law and lobby firm MORE (D-Ark.) and Mark BegichMark BegichEx-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium Dem ex-lawmakers defend Schumer on Iran MORE (D-Alaska) last week voted against the motion to proceed to the gun control debate. Both are up for reelection next year and support gun rights.
Centrist Democrats who are expected to vote for Manchin-Toomey are Sens. Bob CaseyBob CaseyTen senators ask FCC to delay box plan Lawmakers blast poultry, meat industries over worker injuries GOP chairman sees funding deal soon on medical cures bill MORE Jr. (Pa.), Kay HaganKay Hagan10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2016 Senate Republicans are feeling the 'Trump effect' Washington's lobby firms riding high MORE (N.C.), Tim JohnsonTim JohnsonHousing groups argue Freddie Mac's loss should spur finance reform On Wall Street, Dem shake-up puts party at crossroads Regulators fret over FOIA reform bill MORE (S.D.), Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellySenators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels This week: GOP lawmakers reckon with Trump Democrats block energy spending bill over Iran amendment MORE (Ind.), Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillParty chairs see reversal of fortune Why Wasserman Schultz must go Sanders aide: Easier for Dems to unify if Wasserman Schultz steps down MORE (Mo.) and Mark WarnerMark WarnerNo time to relax: A digital security commission for the next generation Army posthumously awards female veteran who served as WWII spy The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Va.).
But Democrats who declined to comment or didn't say definitively where they stand on Manchin-Toomey include Sens. Max BaucusMax BaucusWyden unveils business tax proposal College endowments under scrutiny The chaotic fight for ObamaCare MORE (Mont.), Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampThe Hill's 12:30 Report House Dems urge Senate panel to vote on Ex-Im Bank nominee Senate Dems frustrated over lack of action on Ex-Im Bank nominee MORE (N.D.) and Mary LandrieuMary Landrieu oil is changing the world and Washington Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Republican announces bid for Vitter’s seat MORE (La.). Baucus and Landrieu are seeking reelection in 2014 and are top GOP targets.
Meanwhile, some Republicans who broke ranks to proceed to the gun control bill are opposed to Manchin-Toomey, such as Sens. Tom CoburnTom CoburnMcCain: No third-party foes coming for Trump Tough choice for vulnerable GOP senators: Embrace or reject Trump The Trail 2016: Donald and the Supremes MORE (Okla.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSenators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels Senate amendments could sink email privacy compromise Trump: Romney 'walks like a penguin' MORE (S.C.), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderSenate backs equal pay for female soccer players Overnight Healthcare: Momentum on mental health? | Zika bills head to conference | Only 10 ObamaCare co-ops left Overnight Regulation: GOP slams new Obama education rules MORE (Tenn.), Richard BurrRichard BurrThe Trail 2016: Hell breaks loose Burr, Ross in statistical dead heat in NC Senate race Senate panel advances spy policy bill, after House approves its own version MORE (N.C.) and John HoevenJohn HoevenSenate panel approves funding boost for TSA Overnight Energy: Senate Dems block energy, water bill a third time Bison declared national mammal MORE (N.D.).
Isakson said on MSNBC last week it is "doubtful" he will back Manchin-Toomey. Graham told the Huffington Post he is "not a big fan of background checks."
Coburn is planning to offer his own background check amendment, which could alter the political dynamics of the debate by giving on-the-fence Republicans a chance to vote for some type of background check bill.
During a Sunday appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," McCain said he is "favorably disposed" to Manchin-Toomey. On the same show, Toomey stopped short of predicting victory, saying, "I think it's going to be close." McCain's backing could have an effect on Flake, the undecided freshman senator from Arizona.
Collins told NBC News Sunday she believes the Manchin-Toomey plan, which is backed by President Obama, is "reasonable."
Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerSchumer touts policy victories over Obama administration Puerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate Overnight Healthcare: House, Senate on collision course over Zika funding MORE (D-N.Y.) on ABC's "This Week" noted that not all the Republicans who voted to debate gun control will vote "yes" on Manchin-Toomey, adding it will be a "tough fight" to get to 60 votes. Schumer has called background checks the "sweet spot" of gun control.
During an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Senate Majority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinHow airport security lines got so bad Dem senators call for sanctions on Congo Dems press ITT Tech to give students right to sue MORE (D-Ill.) said he has not yet whipped Manchin-Toomey.
If Manchin-Toomey falters, it would be a huge win for the NRA and a major setback for Obama. Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) will introduce a companion bill to Manchin-Toomey in the GOP-led House, but its chances of getting to the president's desk are remote if the Senate rejects it.
Obama has also called for Congress to pass an assault-weapons ban, but that bill has no chance of passing the House and Senate.
—Noura Alfadi-Andreasson and Alex Lazar contributed to this article, which was last updated at 12:10 p.m.