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

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"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. Jc

    He's 100% right. There are way too many old farts in our party that are so bent on negating anything Obama supports. I have a feeling that if Obama supported making abortions illegal the majority of the GOP politicians would vote against it. I think what we need is a landslide loss. We have to get the old guard out. There are some great rising stars in the GOP that are good moderates that are more than willing to reach across the aisle. Now don't get me wrong, its not just the GOP that is acting foolish. Obama has become a progressive and much less a liberal. The name calling and stonewalling has not helped the situation. In fact, he calls the GOP the party of no, but since 2010 there have been 5 major bills that the democrats wrote and the GOP voted for. In that time span there hasn't been one conservative bill passed by the liberal senate. Its a standoff of fools. If the GOP loses big time next year we could be in a world of hurt. A liberal congress, senate, and president is a recipe for disaster. You should never have a fully partisan government. That removes the checks and balances completely. If the GOP doesn't get its act straight, moderates like me will be voting left.

    May 2, 2013 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  2. athreyi

    The republicans are happy to not co-operate with the democrats and the president, even if this is in the interest of the vast majority of americans and supported by the vast majority (the recent bill on back ground checks that was defeated) ... What a shame

    May 2, 2013 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  3. Kenny G

    First he blames Obama for running a campain to get re-elected based on division then comes out with how taht actually works, GOP not wanting to do whats right yet again so they don't look like they are agreeing with Obama. More of the same I say, just like Mitch McConnel said years ago when he vowed to do whatever it took to make Obama a 1 term president even if that meant voting against things that would help the US.

    May 2, 2013 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  4. Indyswimmer66

    So sad it's come to this... but no surprise. The GOP would rather see America fail... then attempt to blame it on the President.

    May 2, 2013 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  5. Teej

    I'm shocked at Murkowski and Begich not taking this opportunity to strenghten the regulation of the purchase of guns. With all the domestic violence and suicide issues in Alaska one would they'd be leading the charge.

    May 2, 2013 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  6. mittens

    replace the word politicized with racist

    May 2, 2013 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  7. nvmature

    In other words, Republicans care more for party than the country, it's citizens or even vulnerable little kids. Despicable.

    May 2, 2013 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  8. fullsailale

    you could say the same for the dems.

    May 2, 2013 02:29 am at 2:29 am |
  9. Susan

    This _isn't_ news. The GOP hasn't helped Obama ever period.

    May 2, 2013 02:31 am at 2:31 am |
  10. 60minuteman

    What is right for America just doesn't matter to republicans. All that matters to them is opposing Obama, whatever it is. Throw the whole country under the bus, just so we don't look like we agree with Obama on something.....

    May 2, 2013 02:34 am at 2:34 am |
  11. RichardS

    How about it didn't pass because it was a exercise in stupidity. More laws won't change the fact that if someone wants to get a gun, illegally, they'll get it. Quit trying to punish law abiding citizens!

    May 2, 2013 02:36 am at 2:36 am |
  12. hypatia

    Oh so now it's official? The GOP really would rsther kill citizens outright than see Obama appear to gain any kind of advantage. How craven!

    May 2, 2013 02:47 am at 2:47 am |
  13. kevinlyda

    "Country First." Wasn't that McCain's slogan? Ha.

    May 2, 2013 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  14. JGalt

    Or it could have been the extremely vague language of the bill

    May 2, 2013 02:56 am at 2:56 am |
  15. election soon

    If they vote against the peoples' interests just to prevent Obama from accomplishing anything, the only sensible thing to do is to throw them out in 2014!

    May 2, 2013 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  16. ralphco

    don't blame them – this president is a dissaster

    May 2, 2013 03:04 am at 3:04 am |
  17. Proud Independent !

    Wow Toomey !, you are late to this ! The GOP has done nothing but obstruct for the past 4 years ! Toomey is just new and probably didn't realize how just how petty the GOP has become ! They even obstruct when the politics aren't even in their favor ! The majority of voters had no problem with expanding background checks and they voted against it anyway ! It's time that we clean house and get rid of these obstructionists !

    May 2, 2013 03:12 am at 3:12 am |
  18. Complete ignorance

    If the American people want it and it's the right thing to do, but if Obama's name is attached to it I'm against it. Oh yeah, the blind hatred for our current President is all about his policies....sure.

    May 2, 2013 04:14 am at 4:14 am |
  19. Useless Republicans!!

    More useless little man syndrome republicans!!

    May 2, 2013 04:33 am at 4:33 am |
  20. Jay

    That' OK. Things will be less polarized in 2014, after more Repugnicans get tossed out of Congress.

    May 2, 2013 04:37 am at 4:37 am |
  21. grumblesfromthegrave

    CNN's reporting on the topic of gun control is pathetically biased. WHO SAYS that voting in favor of these measures is ("of course!") the "right thing to do" anyway?!?
    Sen. Toomey says "The toughest thing to do in politics is to do the right thing when your supporters think the right thing is something else" – exactly!!! So 85% of the entire country lean toward doing "something" about gun control – but what about those IN THE SENATOR'S OWN STATE?
    Let's take a closer look at the 4 Democrats who voted AGAINST this bill – where were they from, again?
    – Alaska
    – Arkansas
    – Montana
    – N Dakota
    Now, ANYBODY want to suggest that a majority IN THOSE STATES would be IN FAVOR of more gun control? (and anybody want to check which of the TWO senators from each of those states voted FOR it vs. AGAINST it, and which ones are coming up for re-election sooner?)
    Face it: if 99% of NY, CA, IL, PA, and NJ, etc. all FAVOR the controls, does that mean the Senators from, say, WY, ID, UT, NE, or SD should vote WITH THEIR CONSTITUENTS (against) or with the majority from OTHER STATES?!?!?
    This wasn't ANYTHING about someone "buying" senators – it was about senators voting in line with their CONSTITUENTS. And why should they NOT do that?!?!?

    May 2, 2013 04:44 am at 4:44 am |
  22. KPJ

    So whats new........Republicans could care less about America or the President............GOP=SCUMBAGS

    May 2, 2013 04:49 am at 4:49 am |
  23. George in PA

    Is this supposed to be "new" news? This has been going on since President Obama was first elected in 2008. I question if they think the public will forgive and forget in 2016? They will want to point out Democratic failures for the previous eight years, but magically deny this was due to eight years of obstructionism by Republicans who put party loyalty above principle and the American public. Just to set the record straight, I don't feel the Democrats have done much better, and we the citizens of this great country have suffered for it.

    May 2, 2013 05:13 am at 5:13 am |
  24. Gurgyl

    This nation needs Gun-Control laws. In senate that voted against it just SEND those thugs home in 2014.

    May 2, 2013 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
  25. PaulG

    Seriously CNN and the gun grabbing posse, give it up already. If the American people really wanted new gun restriction it would have passed.

    May 2, 2013 05:22 am at 5:22 am |
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