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Gun Bill Still Needs as Many as 8 Votes

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
From left, Manchin, Giffords and Kelly were at the Capitol on Tuesday for a ceremony dedicating a room in the Capitol Visitor Center to a Giffords staffer who was killed in the shooting that injured the congresswoman. It’s unclear whether Senate Democrats have the votes they need to move gun control legislation.

Moreover, the more changes made to the original language, and the weaker the law becomes, the more likely that Democrats on the left will drop off the bill.

House Action Moot?

With as much trouble as it’s having in the Senate, gun control legislation to expand background checks will face a steeper climb in the Republican-controlled House.

Perhaps the only way it could pass — a scenario that Democratic and Republican sponsors hinted at in a statement announcing their effort — is if Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio brings the bill to the House floor in violation of the “Hastert rule,” which requires the support of a majority of Republicans.

“The American people are getting a vote in the Senate. They deserve one in the House,” Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Peter T. King, R-N.Y., said in a joint statement announcing their bill, which is identical to the Manchin-Toomey Senate effort.

While not implausible — Boehner has been discarding the “majority-of-the-majority” precept at a much faster rate than his Republican predecessor — it is highly unlikely that the speaker will brook his conference on this issue, House GOP aides and other sources said.

And the issue may be moot, as it’s not clear whether Manchin and Toomey have the votes in the Senate.

“Our primary focus right now is the Senate,” said Andrew Arulanandam, director of public affairs for the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action.

Thompson maintained an optimistic take that a vigorous lobbying campaign could end up persuading a big House majority to vote for the bill.

“I would be very, very surprised if you see mass numbers of people from either side of the aisle run away from this one,” Thompson said. “The only people that should be against this bill are criminals — people who know they can’t pass a background check.”

Thompson said he’s assuming “that the American people get their way.”

More realistically, given the views of Republican lawmakers on the subject and the power of the NRA, most Republicans won’t support the Manchin-Toomey bill, leaving a Hastert rule violation that depends on Democrats’ support as the most feasible route to passage.

To be sure, Boehner has shown a newfound willingness to violate the Hastert rule in the months after the 2012 elections.

J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., in eight years as speaker, violated his namesake rule 11 times, even though he maintained that it was an operating principle of his leadership. Boehner, in just over two years, has violated it five times, four instances coming in the past four months.

Even former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., went against the majority-of-the-majority practice at a slower rate than Boehner.

Boehner’s lapses have prompted backlash from some conservatives, including those mounting a failed coup plot that was partly fueled by the fiscal-cliff legislation, which passed with a minority of Republicans and a majority of Democrats.

John Gramlich contributed to this report.

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