Democrats were feeling pretty good last week after inking a bipartisan agreement on sweeping background checks for gun purchases and getting the votes to begin a Senate debate on new gun restrictions. But now they return to the Capitol at just the beginning of what will be a long, tough road to turn gun legislation into law.
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First, the bill must survive this week's planned debate in the Senate. And it's still unclear whether the pact struck by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania to expand background checks has the 60 votes needed to pass. Indeed, it looks like it might not.
"Just because your leadoff hitter is on base in the first inning doesn't mean you won the game," a GOP Senate leadership aide said. "It just means your leadoff hitter's on first base."
Republicans will demand full consideration of their amendments and are prepared for a fight. And should the bill make it through what is sure to be an emotional and messy floor debate, it might fall short when the roll is called. Two Democrats, Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, voted against even starting debate on the measure. And of the 16 Republicans who voted with Democrats to start debate, about half will not support the bill, while a half-dozen others have not made up their minds.