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Back from the dead? Senate to scrape up votes on background checks

Democrats are trying to revive the bill to expand background checks for gun buyers that died on the Senate floor.

Democrats are trying to revive the bill to expand background checks for gun buyers that died on the Senate floor.

Senate Majority Harry Reid reported progress on the bipartisan bill—which is supported by 90% of Americans, but was rejected last month in a 54-46 vote—six shy of the 60 votes needed to pass.

“Joe Manchin called me yesterday. He thinks he has a couple more votes,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the Las Vegas Review Journal over the weekend. Co-sponsors of the amendment, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, both boasted “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association, at least before the bill was drafted.

Democrats are still short of a few necessary votes, admitted Reid, but predicted he could scrape up “another Democrat or two. That would get us up to 57.”

While refusing to name-drop the lawmakers who might flip-flop in favor of more background checks, Reid suggested some Republican senators began to regret their vote after they saw the backlash.

“The one senator, Republican senator from New Hampshire has been—wham, man, has she been hit hard. She's the only senator in the northeast to vote against background checks," said Reid, referring to Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte. “She went from a hugely positive number in New Hampshire--her negatives now outweigh her positives. She is being hit every place she goes.”

Ayotte’s approval rating tanked by 15 points after she voted against expanding background checks, and she had to defend herself at a recent town hall meeting when the daughter of the slain Newtown principal confronted the senator, asking her why her mother’s murder apparently didn't matter to the senator.

Sam Stein of the Huffington Post reported that two senators who voted against the background check bill would vote for it after some minor tweaks to language. And Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor also indicated he would be open to looking at another proposal, according to an Arkansas Fox affiliate.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Monday, “We remain optimistic, the president does, that when it comes to background checks that this will happen.”

This momentum comes despite the National Rifle Association’s annual convention this weekend: the Ayotte Effect seems to weigh more heavily with legislators right now than the pro-gun rhetoric that came out of the convention.