Democratic Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Christopher S. Murphy are interviewed by the press after meeting the parents of the Newtown, Conn., shooting victims. The parents are on Capitol Hill this week lobbying to support a vote on gun proposals.
A bipartisan group of Senate negotiators signaled Tuesday night that it has reached a deal in principle on expanding background checks to include more gun sales, in what was widely seen as the major sticking point on the biggest gun control legislation to reach the floor since 1994.
Sens. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., and Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., said they would hold a news conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday to discuss the details of the tentative deal, which was reached with the support of Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and could entice a significant number of other lawmakers to sign on. Schumer told reporters that some details still needed to be worked out but that “we’re closer than we’ve ever been.”
“Tomorrow we hope to finalize it,” Manchin said Tuesday night. A Toomey spokesman added, “Sens. Toomey and Manchin continue to work on final details, but they appear close to a deal.”
The plan is expected to stop short of language currently in the bill that would require background checks on nearly all gun sales, including between private parties. Instead, Toomey aides said, the proposal would require background checks for private sales at gun shows and on the Internet, two areas that are currently exempt.
Nevertheless, support for the plan by Toomey, a reliable conservative with a top rating from the National Rifle Association, would be a major victory for Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama, who have stepped up their calls in recent days to ensure that criminals and the mentally ill do not have easy access to guns.
Even as the negotiators worked to finalize their deal on background checks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., set up a procedural vote to test a threat by 13 Republicans — in addition to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — to filibuster the overall measure.
Reid filed cloture Tuesday night on the motion to proceed to the bill (S 649), which, besides expanding background checks, would impose new criminal penalties on gun traffickers and authorize new funding for school security measures. Reid has also promised to allow amendments on other gun proposals.
“It would be a real slap in the face to the American people not to do something on background checks, on school safety, on federal trafficking, which everybody thinks is a good idea,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.