Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) told host Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that supporters of new gun control legislation do not yet have the votes to pass it, despite defeating a Republican-led filibuster attempt last week.
Durbin is the Senate Majority Whip, responsible for counting his party’s votes on key legislative proposals.
The specific bill facing the Senate is the Manchin-Toomey compromise on background checks, which would expand such requirements to gun shows, among other provisions. Currently, private sales between individuals at gun shows do not require background checks–just as private sales anywhere do not require them.
The following is a rough transcript of Sen. Durbin’s remarks in a joint appearance with Minority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX):
Wallace: Senator Durbin, you and Senator Cornyn, as the Whips in the Senate, are the vote counters, the guys who know whether or not there are enough votes. Are there enough votes when this comes up this week for you to pass the Manchin-Toomey compromise on expanded background checks?
Durbin: I think John will concede Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) of Pennsylvania is one of the mot conservative members of the Republican caucus and Joe Manchin, the most conservative of the Democratic caucus. The two have a proposal supported by 90% of the people in America, supported by 75% of the members of the National Rifle Asociation. I hope the 16 Senators [Republicans who broke the filibuster attempt] and even more will step up and join this approach to make sure that the background checks extend beyond where they are today to reach the 40% of firearms sold–
Wallace: Do you have the votes?
Durbin: We haven’t whipped it. When it gets down to it we have to ask, should we try to keep guns out of the hands of felons and people so mentally unstable, they shouldn’t own a firearm.
Wallace: Senator Cornyn, do you have the votes to block it?
Cornyn: I’m interested in the debate and discussion but I would make the point if Manchin-Toomey were the law of the land today, none of the four of the most recent tragedies would have been prevented.
Though several Republicans joined Democrats in defeating the filibuster, it was not clear that they would support the final Manchin-Toomey bill, nor was it clear that conservative Democrats would do so. Many “red-state Democrats” face re-election in 2014 and could see their chances hurt by support for the bill.
The Manchin-Toomey measure is considered the last attempt at saving a compromise on gun control after earlier, more ambitious efforts failed. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) led an effort to revive and expand the assault weapons ban (AWB), but it lacked support and Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) declined to bring it to the floor.