Toomey on gun laws: GOP didn't want to be seen helping Obama
May 1st, 2013
08:46 PM ET
12 months ago

Toomey on gun laws: GOP didn't want to be seen helping Obama

(CNN) - Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania blamed political polarization for the failure of last month's background check compromise he reached with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, saying some in his party simply voted against the measure to prevent the president from winning a legislative victory.

"In the end, it didn't pass because we're so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it," Toomey said.

"The toughest thing to do in politics is to do the right thing when your supporters think the right thing is something else," he added.

His comments came in an interview Tuesday with a roundtable of Digital First Media editors in the offices of the Times Herald newspaper in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

According to the editors at the meeting, Toomey clarified his comment, saying he meant to say Republicans in general, not just his GOP colleagues in the Senate.

Toomey was one of four Republicans who voted on a measure to expand the background check system so that it covers private sales at gun shows and online. Five Democrats voted against the proposal (including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who voted no so he could bring the bill back up later).

In a 54-46 vote, the measure failed to reach the 60 votes needed to move forward in the Senate. Along with the background checks legislation, a ban on assault weapons also went down in defeat.

President Barack Obama said Tuesday in a news conference that he suspected there were Republican members in Congress who vote against their instincts for political purposes.

"Their base thinks that compromise with me is somehow a betrayal. They're worried about primaries. And I understand all that. And we're going to try to do everything we can to create a permission structure for them to be able to do what's going to be best for the country," he said. "But it's going to take some time."

The president and gun control advocates chided lawmakers for failing to pass the proposal, the only one that had a real shot of passing among the slew of gun proposals brought forward in the wake of the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

While Obama, Reid and gun control groups have vowed to keep up the pressure and bring the legislation back for a vote down the road, Toomey expressed doubt that a second vote will happen soon.

"Reid could bring it up for a vote at any time, but we need five people to change their minds," Toomey said.

"It's a pretty heavy lift to get five senators to change their mind on a big issue like this," he added. "It's not likely to happen any time soon. I hope people will reconsider over time."

His comments sounded less enthusiastic compared with those made by Manchin. The senator from West Virginia said Sunday he believes the measure is still alive and together they can persuade enough lawmakers to support it.

"I truly believe if we have time to sell the bill, and people read the bill," it will gain support, Manchin said. "I'm willing to go anywhere in this country, I'm going to debate anybody on this issue, read the bill and you tell me what you don't like."

– CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.


Filed under: Gun control • Gun rights • Joe Manchin • Pat Toomey
soundoff (555 Responses)
  1. Kevin

    That really is a shame, and believe Sen. Toomney's comment about the reason that this bill failed.

    May 1, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  2. So...

    OK, and if their constituents are part of the 90% who wanted this, where's the problem except in their own heads?

    May 1, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  3. frozenOne

    On what level is this story :"news"?

    May 1, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  4. PatL

    This is nothing new. They have been doing it for Obama's entire term. They put politics before their country. This is truly sad and a low point in recent congressional history.

    May 1, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  5. sbp

    Nothing we didn't already know was going on, but shameful all the same. The GOP has been focused more on embarrassing a Dem President than governing since Clinton was in office. You can't say the same about the Democrats. They COULD have impeached Bush over WMD or outing Valerie Plame – knowing it would not succeed – just to embarrass him. But they didn't.

    May 1, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  6. Eric M

    This is a problem on both sides of the aisle and the man in White House is not helping. It happened when Bush was in office as well.

    May 1, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  7. Angela

    OK so a large percentage of the GOP doesn't care about the content of a bill, or what the bill would do all they care is that they should poke the president in the eye. Don't care what Americans want as a law, all they care is that Obama likes or hates something. This is the party with Ideas?? Pretty dim ideas..

    May 1, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  8. pa dem

    I usually pull the lever for the dem on the ticket. Toomey has my vote next time I'm in the Booth. Anyone above party politics, willing to work for votors, has my vote. I vote in pa and wont forget Rooney next time he's up.

    May 1, 2013 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  9. PJ

    We have known this since day one, but to have a Tea Party Republican actually say it is remarkable. He may pay a
    price, but he will be able to live with himself for a very long time. Not so, Kelly Ayotte, and the rest.
    As for Manchin being "willing to go anywhere in this Country" and "debate anyone on this issue", I would love
    to see him take on Ted Cruz. He would put Cruz in his place in record time.

    May 1, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  10. Ellen

    Nothing has changed and nothing will change as long as Barack Obama is President of 'these' [divided] States.
    If people can't get jobs because of a background check why not pass a bill to have a background check to buy guns?
    That's just crazy not too....just read about the 5 year old who shot his 2 year old sister with his "birthday" present...give me a break...his parents should never have been allowed to purchase that weapon if they were going to be negligent of leaving the two children alone with a loaded rifle....crazy!!!

    So they make it all about President Obama...just crazy...

    May 1, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  11. Blaine Milburn

    So you didn't pass something that would have beneficial to the safety of Americans just because of some pre-teen drama. Classy Washington, very classy. Congratulations.

    May 1, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  12. z2cents

    The GOP will poison this country out of hatred...

    May 1, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  13. tom mitchell

    It never ceases to amaze me that politicians can't do the right thing for the country, but can do the right thing for themselves. It's like the needs of the few outweigh the wants of the many. Our collective memories are so very short, that we continue to put these same people back in office.

    It seems vulgar, dirty and a weakness of character that an elected official would do what's right for a few instead of doing the right thing for the country.

    May 1, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  14. tafugate

    republicans didn't want to be seen helping obama? geez, that's a shocker. republicans will vote against their own bills whenever it appears they'll be supported by democrats. republicans are not only trying to circumvent obama's presidency, they're trying to circumvent representative democracy.

    May 1, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  15. Former Republican, now an Independent

    Toomey is stating the obvious, which has been going on since the 2010 election. It is high time the American voter cleaned house and tossed out any politician who is obstructing legislation that is good for American citizens.

    May 1, 2013 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  16. Bill Smells

    This is Obama's own doing. He came to Washington and polarized it. He's divided the country and the legislator. He has no ability or credibility to reach across the aisle and collaborate on anything.

    Hey, Mr. President, this is the bed you made, now you have to sleep in it.

    May 1, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  17. Dave

    He continues to dig a deeper hole for himself when it comes to reelection. Seems like he needs to do what his predecessor did and just roll over and become a Democrat.

    May 1, 2013 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  18. here and back again

    Duh...no news here

    May 1, 2013 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  19. Questions401

    To put this simply...Divided we fall...

    May 1, 2013 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  20. Texas

    At least Toomey has the Integrity to admit his colleagues are Childish, and don't want what's good for the Country. Politics mean more to them than the Country they profess to love.... hypocrites.

    May 1, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  21. iBod

    What's shocking is Toomey is a Republican. What's more shocking is he is a member of the Tea Party. What's most shocking is I am beginning to like this guy. He is the sanest, most Moderate Republican in the Senate! Good man with a good heart and a fine sense of direction. I never thought I would say this, but, if he keeps this up he might actually have my vote when he's up for reelection.

    May 1, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  22. Jinx9to88

    Wow this is news. The GOP doesn't want to work with the president. How pathetic does the GOP sound now?

    May 1, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  23. Debbie

    Just vote them out of office. We need real legislators, not scared bullies.

    May 1, 2013 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  24. Jim g

    This Congress has done nothing to help the people who voted for them either.. They take the oath to Nordquist or whatever his name is, more seriously than their oath to the American people. They do not have to agree with the President, but they have to work with the President. He was elected by a majority of the citizens that voted, and thus he is the President. Nothing they can do now, but accept it and start serving the people as they took an oath to do. I know it is tough to give up all those dollars from lobbyist but an oath is an oath. So, I hope you can see that by working with the President instead of hating him or acting like he is not there, you can begin to do your jobs. Otherwise shame on you, this is at you and your kinds feet.

    May 1, 2013 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  25. Bob

    I am an EX-Republican and this is EXACTLY why I left this party that no longer cares about America.

    May 1, 2013 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
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