A scrum of reporters gathered outside Sen. Joe Manchin's office Tuesday afternoon waiting for any sign of movement on his embattled background checks amendment while inside he met privately with negotiating partner Sen. Pat Toomey and former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly.
Giffords' gun control group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, has been credited with helping to bring Toomey and Manchin together to draft a provision to expand background checks. (Read Sunday's tick-tock of how Toomey became involved here.)
Giffords survived an assassination attempt in 2011, but suffered major brain trauma. The four principles met privately for about 10 minutes before Toomey and Manchin escorted them from the Hart office building onto the underground subway and to the Capitol. Giffords then met with Democrats during their weekly lunch in an attempt to persuade red state hold outs.
Toomey didn't say much as the four walked together, letting Manchin act as spokesperson. Asked how Giffords could help move things along, Manchin said, "They're helping just by being here and talking to our colleagues. We're close but we could use their help."
The latest count has 52 senators in support of the Toomey-Manchin background checks amendment, but if Republicans force a cloture vote on each amendment as they are threatening, then they'd need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. The bill would require checks on commercial sales at gun shows and over the Internet, but not between private individuals.
Toomey said he's continuing to have discussions with his Republican colleagues. In those talks, as reported in today's Morning Call, he encourages them to read the text of the amendment.
"I think they're a lot more likely to come out and support it. ," he said.
So far the only Republicans committing their support are Toomey, Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois. John McCain of Arizona is a strong maybe. Arizona's other senator, Jeff Flake, who was also considered a maybe, said Monday night he would not support it.
Mark Kelly, at a breakfast with reporters on Tuesday morning, threatened to campaign against Flake in 2018 if he doesn't support background checks.
"Friendship is one thing, saving people's lives -- especially first-graders -- is another," Kelly said.Copyright © 2015, CT Now