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Manchin: Background check bill 'will not get the votes'

A critical vote on background checks is planned for Wednesday afternoon, but Sen.

A critical vote on background checks is planned for Wednesday afternoon, but Sen. Joe Manchin, a co-author of the critical amendment, says it’s unlikely to pass.

While the West Virginia Democrat voiced optimism on Morning Joe, saying he was “hopeful” the bill would pass and he'd continue fighting for the necessary votes, Manchin told NBC News the bill “will not get the votes today.”

Aides estimate the bill is 4-5 votes short, but say more Democrats from red states may defect and vote against it if it looks too risky.

Two A-rated NRA politicians, Manchin and Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, authored an amendment to the bill that fused background checks and additional Second Amendment protections in hopes of sweetening the bill for Republicans, but they've struggled to garner the votes. On Tuesday, they considered new adjustments to earn additional votes, but dropped the effort after it became clear the revisions wouldn’t change any votes.

“We have over 90% of the senate democrats who will vote affirmative,” he said on Morning Joe. “If we just had 20% of the Senate Republicans—that’s not a heavy ask, that’s not a heavy lift—20%, that’s 9 members” the bill would pass.

The bill has 52 yes votes and 40 no votes; eight senators have not indicated which way they’ll vote: Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alas., Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Mark Pryor, R-Ark., Sen. Frank Lautenburg, D-N.J. is out for health reasons, leaving bill backers to try and find another vote.

Sen. McCain has expressed his support for background checks, but hasn't announced which way he'll vote on the bill. Sen. Pryor is up for reelection in 2014, putting him in a tough spot in the gun vote. He told NBC Tuesday that he is still undecided and would read the full text of the bill before making a decision. Many expect him to vote no, but Pryor said a "surprise" is still a possibility.

The latest Morning Joe/Marist poll found that 87% of Americans favor background checks. David Axelrod, former top Obama advisor and msnbc contributor, said there is no clearer display of “special interest” influence on Capitol Hill than a bill with such strong voter support that can’t get the votes.

The NRA has spent $500,000 on a last-minute add attacking “Obama’s gun ban” for Wednesday to coincide with the vote.

A spokesman for Sen. Manchin walked back the senator's comments in a statement following Manchin's early-morning remarks, saying Manchin would "continue to explain his bill to his colleagues and anyone with concerns until the minute they vote."