Graham intends to offer as an amendment competing legislation that would change the background check system, but not expand it.
“I continue to work toward an agreement to vote on this compromise,” Reid said. At the same time, he warned Republicans against filibustering the amendment, saying that would be a “shameful tribute” to those who were killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.
Graham Pushes Alternative
Graham’s opposition to the compromise, in particular, could spell bad news for gun control supporters since he intends to offer as an amendment competing legislation (S 480) that would change the background check system, but not expand it. The proposal aims to share more records of mentally ill individuals with a national database of prohibited gun purchasers.
The bill is co-sponsored by Flake and Heller, and the trio could be inclined to band together and push their own proposal rather than support the Manchin-Toomey measure. In addition, two Democrats facing tough re-election fights next year — Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas — also are co-sponsors of the mental health records legislation and are seen as likely to vote against the Manchin-Toomey measure.
“Instead of expanding a broken background check system, let’s fix it,” Graham said in a statement Monday. “I have bipartisan legislation which would accomplish that goal. I hope the Senate will soon debate and approve my legislation.”
But adoption of Graham’s measure at the expense of the Manchin-Toomey bill would amount to a major defeat for at least one gun control group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which said Graham’s proposal would be counterproductive and would result in fewer, not more, mental health records being shared with the prohibited buyer database.
Despite signs of increasingly long odds, gun control groups expressed confidence Monday about their chances and prepared to ramp up their lobbying in what is a crucial week for the Obama administration’s agenda on guns.
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was set to make her way to Capitol Hill to lobby personally for the amendment. Survivors of mass shootings were planning to use Tuesday — the six-year anniversary of the massacre at Virginia Tech — to call for adoption of the Manchin-Toomey amendment.
Mayor Against Illegal Guns, meanwhile, highlighted what it said was an effective advertising campaign against Flake, who voted against expanding background checks in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“In April, 43 percent of voters disapproved of Senator Flake’s performance as a senator, a net increase of 9 percent from before the advertising began,” the group said in a press release designed to increase pressure on Flake to support the Manchin-Toomey measure.
Other groups said they are not giving up.
“I think there are a number of Democrats and Republicans who want to do the right thing, and the more they hear from people in their states, the more apt they are to vote on our side, and that’s where we’re putting our energy,” said Brian Malte, director of mobilization for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, another gun control group that is pushing for the Manchin-Toomey measure.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.