NORRISTOWN, Pa. - In the wake of the failed Senate effort to expand background checks for gun purchases - and the subsequent boost in his poll numbers for supporting the measure - Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said Tuesday he does not believe another attempt will succeed in the Senate.
Speaking to a roundtable of Digital First Media editors in the offices of The Times Herald newspaper, Toomey fielded several questions about the controversial April 17 gun control vote that he was front and center in the discussion.
"The bill is available right now and Sen. (Majority leader Harry) Reid could bring it up for a vote at any time, but we need five people to change their minds," Toomey said of the last vote, which fell five votes short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.
"It's a pretty heavy lift to get five senators to change their mind on a big issue like this," Toomey said. "It's not likely to happen any time soon. I hope people will reconsider over time."
Toomey's assessment comes in the wake of comments by the bill's co-sponsor, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who told Fox News Sunday he is willing to work to revive the bill.
"I don't think he's done," Manchin said on Fox News Sunday. "I was with Pat last night, and Pat's totally committed to this bill. And I believe that with all my heart. And we're gonna work this bill."
Toomey told the roundtable Tuesday that he has always supported background checks, which he calls "common sense," and agreed to a request to look at the legislation being proposed Manchin because the two had worked together on bipartisan legislation that affects the coal industry both states share.
The bill they proposed focused on encouraging states to comply with existing manual background check rules by supplying more complete records on their list of those prohibited from carrying them and expand background checks at gun shows; legislation that already exists in Pennsylvania but not all states, as well as online purchases.
In the wake of the horrific school shootings in Newtown, Conn., the legislation has support of as much as 80 percent of Americans, according to some polls.
Toomey said he initially thought there was enough momentum to get the bill passed in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
He noted that the National Rifle Association, which opposed this latest effort and has previously given Toomey an "A-rating," supported similar background check legislation when Toomey voted for it as a member of the House of Representatives in 1999.
However, the country has become so polarized politically, passing legislation on major issues is getting increasingly difficult, Toomey said.
"In the end it didn't pass because we're so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it," Toomey said.
In subsequent comments, he tried to walk that remark part-way back by noting he meant to say Republicans across the nation in general, not just those in the Senate.
"The toughest thing to do in politics is to do the right thing when your supporters think the right thing is something else," Toomey said.
Since the vote, Toomey said he has "not heard anything from the NRA."