Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid set the chamber on the path to its first major gun-control votes in a decade, beginning with a critical Thursday vote to break a GOP filibuster.
A bipartisan compromise proved elusive, but Reid scheduled a vote to force a gun bill to the Senate floor. Even if he falls short of the 60 votes needed to end debate, he said he'll make Republicans filibuster the bill until he gets a vote on the underlying issues. "It will take a little bit of time, but we're going to do it," he said.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., emerged from the majority leader's office late Tuesday saying they had not yet reached a deal on extending criminal background checks to most gun purchases. That issue has held up progress on the bill for weeks.
The compromise on background checks that Manchin was trying to forge with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., will have to move as an amendment.
Other amendments in the works: a mental health provision by Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska; language regulating the size of ammunition magazines by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; and a ban on certain types of assault weapons proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
It's not clear whether there are 60 votes to end debate. Several Republican senators have indicated they may vote with Democrats to end the filibuster and allow an up-or-down vote on the gun bill.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said on MSNBC Tuesday "I don't support a filibuster for this," and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said on CBS that although it was still unclear what would be in the bill, "I think it deserves a vote up or down."
Other Republican senators who have expressed reservations about a filibuster include John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, wouldn't say whether they would support the Republican filibuster Tuesday because they have not yet seen the final bill.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he welcomed a debate on the issue, if amendments are allowed.
But Reid may not have all his Democratic votes, either. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., is ill and will not vote, and at least two leading Democrats, Sens. Max Baucus of Montana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, have not said whether they will support Reid's effort to move the gun bill.
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