Conservative Republicans threaten filibuster as background-check bill expands

AP File Photo

Faces of Sandy Hook Elementary School victims are seen behind Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D– Calif., as she speaks about the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 during the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. Congress returns Monday from a two-week spring recess with gun control and immigration high on the Senate's agenda. Senators could start debating Democratic-written gun legislation before week's end. But leaders also might decide to give negotiators more time to seek a deal on expanding background checks for firearms buyers.

WASHINGTON — Two influential senators, one from each party, are working on an agreement that could expand background checks on firearms sales to include gun shows and online transactions, Senate aides said Sunday.

If completed, the effort could represent a major breakthrough in the effort by President Barack Obama and his allies to restrict guns following last December's massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn.

Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., could nail down an accord early this week, said the aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private talks. With the Senate returning Monday from a two-week recess, the chamber's debate on gun control legislation could begin as soon as Tuesday, though it might be delayed if the lawmakers need more time to complete a deal, the aides said.

Expanding background checks to gun shows and online sales is one possibility that has been discussed, and the overall package, if completed, could still change, aides said. The senators are also discussing exempting transactions between relatives and temporary transfers for hunters and sportsmen, they said.

Manchin is a moderate who touts an A rating from the National Rifle Association, which has opposed Obama's gun control drive. Toomey has solid conservative credentials and was elected to the Senate two years ago with tea party support from his Democratic-leaning state.

A united front by the two lawmakers would make it easier for gun control advocates to attract support from moderate Democrats who have been wary of supporting the effort and from Republicans who have largely opposed it so far.

With conservative Republicans threatening a filibuster, Democrats will need 60 of the chamber's 100 votes to prevail. There are 53 Democrats and two Democratic-leaning independents in the Senate.

Federal background checks are currently required only for transactions handled by the roughly 55,000 federally licensed firearms dealers; private sales such as gun-show or online purchases are exempt. The system is designed to keep guns from criminals, people with serious mental problems, and some others.

After 20 first-graders and six elementary school staffers were killed at Newtown, Obama proposed applying the requirement to virtually all firearms sales. Gun control advocates consider expanded background checks to be the most effective step lawmakers could take to curb gun violence.

Also high on Congress' agenda is immigration, where a decisive moment is approaching.

Bipartisan groups in the House and Senate are expected to present legislation as early as this week aimed at securing the U.S. border, fixing legal immigration and granting legal status to millions who are in the United States without authorization. That will open months of debate on the politically combustible issue, with votes by the Senate Judiciary Committee expected later this month.

The House returns Tuesday and initially plans to consider a bill preventing the National Labor Relations Board from issuing rules until a dispute over administration appointees is resolved.

Lawmakers will also devote time to the 2014 budget that Obama plans to release Wednesday. It calls for new tax increases, which Republicans oppose, and smaller annual increases in Social Security and other government benefit programs, over the objections of many of the president's fellow Democrats.

On Monday, Obama travels to Connecticut to again make the case for gun legislation, with a speech at the University of Hartford.

"He's been working with both sides to try to get the strongest bill we can that has enforceable background checks," White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

Other Obama gun control priorities include banning assault weapons and ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds. Both bans are expected to be offered as amendments when Senate debate begins, but the assault weapons ban seems sure to be defeated and the high-capacity magazine prohibition also faces difficult odds.

For weeks, Manchin has been part of an effort to craft a background check compromise, along with Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill. Schumer focused his efforts on conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., but those talks sputtered over Schumer's insistence on — and Coburn's opposition to — requiring that records be kept of private gun sales.

"I'm still hopeful that what I call the sweet spot — background checks — can succeed," Schumer said Sunday. "We're working hard there."

Proponents say background checks and records — which are currently retained by gun dealers, not the government — are the best way to ensure that would-be gun-buyers' histories are researched. Opponents say the system is a step toward government files on gun owners and say criminals routinely skirt the checks anyway.

Asked about the potential compromise, Manchin spokesman Jonathan Kott said, "My boss continues to talk to all of his colleagues."

Toomey spokeswoman E.R. Anderson said she could provide no information.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., urged fellow Republicans to allow debate to go forward without a filibuster, even as he declined to express support for a background check bill.

"The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand," McCain said, appearing alongside Schumer on CBS' "Face the Nation."

With or without an agreement, the Senate gun legislation would toughen federal laws against illegal firearms sales, including against straw purchasers, those who buy firearms for criminals or others barred from owning them. The legislation also would provide $40 million a year, a modest increase from current levels of $30 million, for a federal program that helps schools take safety measures such as reinforcing classroom doors.

In addition, the gun bill contains language by Schumer expand background checks to cover nearly all gun transactions, with narrow exceptions that include sales involving immediate relatives. Even without a bipartisan deal, Schumer is expected to expand the exemptions to more relatives, people with permits to carry concealed weapons and others.

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When you have no reasonable argument and your position is so unpopular you cannot possibly win , obstruct and then obstruct some more. This is the government our gerrymandered Congress has stuck us with. Surely at some point the American people will get fed up with paying these people to take one vacation after another and doing nothing in between except to work at doing nothing.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Conservative Republicans threaten filibuster as background-check

Monday 13:45 hst ?
Conservative Republicans threaten filibuster as background-check bill. .is like the little boy who cried w u l ƒƒ , w o l f , w o l f , W O L F !
The sky is not falling , chicken littles . And do you know what the farmer replied ? Holy crap, a talking chicken ! hth ? /s Dr. Dosh , HI

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Cost times 380 and growing, Conservative and wasteful?

The Cost Of Filibuster Abuse

The core principle of our government is that We, the People make the decisions. We are supposed to have self-government by majority rule. But in the last few years this has been turned on its head by this silent filibuster obstruction. Nothing gets done, and the public doesn't understand why not. The cost to We, the People has been staggering.

Under Lyndon Johnson there was one filibuster, and the public knew about it because a Senator had to talk all night. In the last few years there have just a few been more than one and the public doesn't know about it at all. How many filibusters have there been? Harry Reid writes in Politico: “Since Democrats took control of the Senate in 2006, Republicans have mounted 380 filibusters.”

This simple fix is to change the rules back to what people think the rules already are: make them actually filibuster in the way the public understands. They should make them talk all night if they want to obstruct a bill.

Rand Paul's filibuster stunt cost taxpayers over 7 million dollars - 2.9 for the Capitol to remain open, which Fox Noise has no issue with, with all staff and senators, for a 13 hours of nothing getting completed, and Rand Paul voted the next session.

We, the People are not getting from our government what we want and need. Republicans have mounted 380 filibusters and growing.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Lets just get it done......................

Pass the background check, pass the assault rifle ban. It's all been done before, what year was the last assault rifle ban I think it was the early eighties. Who ever doesn't get their way this time around, will just whittle away at this new bill until it becomes tolerable. With so many people wanting things to be "THEIR" own way, I don't see any law staying active. No one's going to be happy and little bills will be injected into bigger bills to effect change, with out much fanfare. Ten years from now we all will be scratching our heads wondering what ever happened to that assault rifle ban. Until we can get both sides to agree on a long term solution, something both "Parties" believe in, not just a few from each side. I just don't see the point in wasting all this energy, if the disgruntled few will just make changes anyway. To me that's just not a very good use of the incredibly short time we seem to have between these recesses. It seems the only thing everyone seems to agree on is when to take "Recess"...................

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

What are they there for?

If repubs want to elect a worthless person to just filibuster, the repubs should elect parrots or monkeys, hmmm! Because anybody off the street or out of a zoo could do that!

The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate, to vote and to let the people know where they stand.

The repubs complain about wasting money and they do exactly what they bitch about...

Steve  Dosh's picture

Jer , RHINOs , too ,&

Jer , RHINOs , too ,& hypocrites like Dead Eye Dick Cheney + former " Mr. Waterboard " US A G Ashcroft :)
If the neo - conservatives want to ? something, maybe they ought to check the mental health records of the gun nuts purchasing and reselling ( those straw men and sportswomen - you know who you are ) these things , huh ?
We suport the Jim Brady Biil ( Reagan's former Sec'y )
^^ Word up ^^
/s Steve


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