President Barack Obama was hoping the emotions from the Newtown elementary school massacre would lead to new gun control measures.
But the president’s hopes for new laws placing new restrictions on gun owners may have ended Wednesday, as the Democratic-controlled Senate voted against a watered down gun-control proposal seen as having the best chance of passing.
The Manchin/Toomey amendment expanding mandatory background checks – billed as a compromise proposal that both parties could back – failed to get the 60 required votes in the body. Fifty-four senators voted for the legislation, while 46 voted against it. The bill is named for Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who collaborated to craft it.
“This isn’t gun control,” Toomey argued on the floor before the vote. “It’s common-sense.”
But gun rights activists scoffed at the proposal – which requires background checks for all commercial transactions – saying it would do nothing to stop another mass shooting.
“Expanded background checks would not have prevented Newtown,” Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said before the vote.
The Senate was also poised to vote on eight other amendments having to do with guns on Wednesday afternoon, including a conservative alternative offered by Grassley and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and a federal “assault weapons” ban sponsored by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
“Shame on you,” a woman in the gallery shouted when the vote tally was announced.
Four Republican senators voted for the measure: Toomey, Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois and John McCain of Arizona.
Four Democrats – Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota – voted against the measure. The first three face re-election in red-leaning states next year.
New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who has not cast a vote since Feb. 28 due to health issues, made his first return to the floor to vote in favor of the bill in a wheelchair.
He was greeted by a smattering of applause led by Maryland Rep. Barbara Mikulski. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin leaned down to kiss him on the cheek.
When Lautenberg cast his “aye” vote, he got a loud round of applause from Democrats, causing the presiding member to call for order.
Vice President Joe Biden presided over the Senate for the vote.