Senate Democrats have put off taking up the House-passed gun control bill until April, and senior Senate aides say that's because the background check measure is "dead on arrival."
"It doesn't have the votes," a senior Republican staffer said, according to The Washington Free Beacon. "Not only does it not have the votes quietly, it doesn't have the votes loudly because [Sens. Joe] Manchin and [Pat] Toomey are out there opposing it."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told colleagues in a letter Thursday, posted on Twitter by NBC's Sahil Kapur, that he will bring the background check legislation to the Senate floor shortly after senators return for business on April 12.
However, Manchin, D-W.Va., Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, already publicly have said they oppose H.R. 8, which requires that licensed gun dealers carry out background checks for almost all gun sales or even when guns are loaned to others.
The opposition is leading the speculation that Democrat leaders will try to revive the bipartisan bill launched in 2013 by Toomey and Manchin, which calls for background checks only for private sales.
Toomey could be alienated by the Democrats' push to abolish the filibuster, a senior aide said, and he is "not interested in playing political games or being an example in a background check exercise. He's interested in achieving an actual outcome."
Back in 2013, when Toomey co-sponsored the background check amendment, he was able to bring four more GOP votes for the proposal, which was being strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights organizations. However, the amendment did not meet the 60-vote threshold needed for the package.
The aide said that Toomey is "not interested in political theater," but that he is interested in a consensus measure and not in "helping lead a project that's ultimately doomed to fail."
Toomey told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that lawmakers must find a way to reach common ground on gun legislation.
"I have long believed … the place where we ought to be able to get that done is requiring background checks on commercial sales," Toomey said. "There are Republican senators who are interested, not because it's some bank shot to prevent the Democrats from abusing their power with respect to the filibuster, but because there's some substantive support."
Republicans say that if Schumer pushes for a compromise solution with senators such as Toomey and Manchin in the lead, a bill could be reached that would pass with 60 votes. For that to happen, the bill also will have to balance GOP concessions against progressive goals, such as bans on AR-15 weapons
"Does Schumer want to actually come to the table and talk about stricter enforcement on straw purchases?" one staffer said. "Does he want to talk about some of the gun restraining order proposals that had strong due process checks in them? Or does he just want to keep trying to run up against the filibuster and score political points?"
Meanwhile, other Senate staffers said they are skeptical that a background check compromise will reach 60 votes, but they believe other bipartisan proposals could pass.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said Thursday that he and Schumer plan to spend the next weeks working with lawmakers in both parties to "try to craft the strongest background checks bill that can pass."
Schumer, however, said Democrats will push through legislation even without support from Republicans.
"We will try to work with our Republican colleagues on a bipartisan basis when and where we can," he said. "But if they choose to obstruct, rather than work with us to deliver for American families, we must make progress nonetheless. Failure is not an option."
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