A U.S. Senate bill to expand gun-buyer background checks teetered between
triumph and defeat Wednesday amid growing opposition ahead of a showdown vote.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., scheduled an afternoon vote, saying he was hopeful of a victory for the bipartisan amendment from Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., that would broaden background checks to all online and gun-show sales.
"I think there's significant momentum," Reid told reporters Tuesday. "Now, am I saying it's all over with, done, we got the votes? No, but we certainly feel we have the wind at our back."
But growing numbers of the 55 senators who caucus with Democrats were likely to reject the proposal, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Manchin told reporters the measure needed last-minute Republican support to defeat a 60-vote threshold needed to overcome any conservative GOP-led filibuster threat.
"We need some help with the Republicans," Manchin said. "We need more than what we have."
Among GOP senators, only Toomey, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine have said they plan to vote for the amendment.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has said he's inclined to support it.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said late Tuesday he would vote against the amendment, leaving only Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and five Democrats as not saying how they plan to vote.
Forty-eight Democrats and two independents have said they will back the amendment, including Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who at age 89 is the oldest current senator and has missed recent votes due to muscle weakness and fatigue.
If Lautenberg and McCain both vote for the measure, Democrats would need all six of the undecided lawmakers to overcome the 60-vote threshold, the Journal said.
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was gravely wounded in a January 2011 shooting in her home state of Arizona that left six other people dead, appealed to the Senate Democratic Caucus lunch Tuesday to support the measure.
Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who have been pushing for stronger gun-control measures after December's deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, also pleaded for support, as did Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who was governor during 2007's Virginia Tech massacre.
Manchin and Toomey had considered changing their amendment to win colleague support by exempting rural residents who live far from licensed dealers.
But the change didn't persuade swing senators and was likely to be dropped, a Senate aide told the Journal.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told the newspaper the exemption wasn't enough to win her vote.
"In Alaska you're pretty much pro-gun. That about sums it up," she said.
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