Sen. Joe Manchin said Thursday if the National Rifle Association hadn’t interfered by telling lawmakers their votes on background checks would be factored into its grading system, the bill would have passed.
“If they hadn’t scored it, we’d have gotten 70 votes,” Manchin said at a breakfast event hosted by The Wall Street Journal. “They made a big mistake.” He added, “I hope that they are able to look at the mistake they made and look at the bill for the facts that’s in it and say, fine, we gotta let our members vote and not score the next time we come—I would love to see that happen.”
The gun-owning Democrat from West Virginia has played nice with the NRA in the past, receiving an “A” rating from the influential lobbyist group. That will likely drop following his co-sponsorship of his gun bill with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Led by a Republican opposition effort, the Senate ultimately rejected the bipartisan measure, 54-46. It was just six votes short of meeting the 60-count threshold, the minimum amount needed to move the bill forward.
Roughly nine of out of 10 Americans supported the bill for increased background checks. Gun control advocates, liberals and much of the public are outraged by the bill’s failure.
Mark Kelly, Gabby Giffords’ husband, said fear lead senators to vote “no” on the bill.
“If that vote had been a secret ballot, I bet you it would have passed with 80 votes… A lot of the senators that we met with over the past days and weeks–you know, we discussed this legislation with them, we talked about how it would work, what it would do, and most of them–actually, almost all of them–said that they were in favor of the policy on the merit,” Kelly said at a press conference on Thursday. “But a lot of them, those folks that voted ‘no’ yesterday, many of them were looking to get to a ‘no’ and it was out of one thing: fear.”
Gabby Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence, called out the “cowardice” of senators in a New York Times op-ed following Wednesday’s gun vote.
“Senators say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets,” she wrote. The former Arizona congresswoman slammed lawmakers for siding with the NRA instead of their constituents, and warned that they would see the consequences at the ballot box. “They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby—and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.”
The NRA succeeded in blocking President Obama’s push for tighter gun control legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. But a determined Obama said Wednesday, “I see this as just round one.”
Looking ahead, Manchin, who renewed his vow to keep the pressure on colleagues, said the Senate should advance a stand-alone bill on improving mental health treatment of gun violence ASAP. “After I talked to the teachers in West Virginia, they need it now. If we can do it now, we should do it,” he said. “They don’t need to wait until we strategize and put a package together that’s more solid, in all honesty.”