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. Be Sane

    What a sorry lot they are. I voted for President Obama, but must now admit the sad truth. He should not have become President. The majority who voted him into office can not neutralize the outright hate demonstrated by the far right of the Republican Party. Their hate for him is so complete that they can't represent our nation. Our nation has not progressed enougth for this good man to be in office. How sad for all of us.

    May 2, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  2. Mike

    The claim is the right to bear arms. Where were these clowns when the previous administration took many of our personal rights because we were in a "war". If the NRA and republicans want to protect our rights then they should fight for all rights, not just the right to own an automatic weapon.

    May 2, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  3. Lr

    And this is new information? That is what this political system has ALWAYS been about. Regardless of the individual's motives before getting elected, they immediately change to getting reelected and keeping power. Its never been about doing whats best or whats right.

    May 2, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  4. gacowboy

    The biggest problem here is the fact that Toomey sees that his constituants believe in something that doesn't align with what he desires and he is still pushing something they do NOT want. "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. He is there to represent THEM!!.... THEY should vote his sorry backside out of office and elect someone who represents THEM and not him self!

    May 2, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  5. Yanni

    So much for the country first crowd, they are blinded by their deep seeded hate they cannot see how much damage they are doing to our society. I am thinking may be some day they recognize action and will be sorry about all the pain they inflicted to the American people, but I doubt. sadly, this has been the pattern for the Republican party for a while now

    May 2, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  6. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    @ John P. Tarver wrote " Republicans do not have the power to stop him in the Senate." Then why is it the Senate needs 60 votes in order to even discuss anything? The US Senate has been called the "World's Greatest Debating Society" in the past. Unfortunately, the current Senate Republicans appear to be terrified to actually debate anything out of fear that some of their members may see the logic in some of the President's proposals. Instead, they make sure the Democrats only have 59 or fewer votes to bring something to the floor, and they don't have to worry about anything being passed.

    May 2, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  7. Scrappyike

    Uh Hello....The Senate is controlled by the Democrats. Was not just the Republicans alone.

    May 2, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  8. PushingBack

    Looks like we are going to need another black democrat to run next time. I like Hillary but feel another black president would be great even if it is just to rub more lemon juice on an open paper cut!

    May 2, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  9. Tom

    It'll get done – it might have to wait for the Democratic supermajority that undoubtedly is coming now, in '14. The Republicans have shot themselves in the foot (no pun intended) with this firearm measure after how many other alienating votes and obstruction? They seem totally oblivious to their own demise, which they are causing themselves. Dumb –

    May 2, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  10. Bill

    At least he had the guts to admit to the mindless GOP obstructionist behavior. It was not to help Obama, it was for the American people, something they just can not grasp. These clowns are in for a big surprise in 2014 and 2016. The campaign commercials against these idiots are already in the works. Kelly Ayotte is certainly a one-term senator after this vote. Many others as well.

    May 2, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  11. Chilly Willy

    "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. Another politician who believes the "right thing" is to do what he wants. No Toomey, the "right thing" is voting the way the people who elected Reps and Sens want them to vote.
    Despite what too many people believe, Reps and Sens ONLY represent the respective districts and states, not the US as a whole.

    May 2, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  12. Bessy

    The American people have to vote these Republicans out of office. They will always go against the president even when they know they are hurting the country by doing so. They took a pledge among themselves and it doesn't matter how it ruins the country. Right now they know he can't be reelected but they want to hurt his chances of having anything good happening while he is in office. The majority of them are bigots pure and simple and the remainder of them just don't want to hurt the good old boy network. Toomey is no better. He is just trying to change his image right now because he is afraid the people in Pa. will not reelect him to office. Hopefully he is right on that. All Republicans in office have to go. All of them.

    May 2, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  13. Jul

    I've never been one to support term limits, but this makes me believe that it is a good idea. Time to clean up the long serving only concerned with the next election for those who know that there is a clock over their head dictating how much time they have to do good.

    May 2, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  14. WW

    It's pretty obvious. The GOP is a party of greedy self interest and hate. They are only hurting themselves.

    May 2, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  15. Jerry

    Thank you, thank you Republicans...and... some "ballie?" Democrats.

    This one will definitely get in the craw of all Obama butt kissers; thank you Fox News!!!

    May 2, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  16. Malory Archer


    This Toomey clown sounds like a RINO.


    Meanwhile, his approval ratings have improved while kelly ayotte's have taken a dive.

    May 2, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  17. ex-american

    CNN Note – you're confusing your terms – they are RACIST – that's why they cast votes like this. At least destroy what was my country consistently.

    May 2, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  18. Truth

    @ Bessy

    All Democrats MUST go!
    How do you like that? hahahaha

    May 2, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  19. Here we go again


    Uh Hello....The Senate is controlled by the Democrats. Was not just the Republicans alone.

    Hey Scrappy, there is a difference between holding a majority in the Senate and controlling it. Please learn legislative branch 101. Jeesh!

    May 2, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  20. Jack in Florida

    The Republicans are racists, pure and simple. They are putting their agendas above the welfare of our American Citizens in not wanting to be seen as "helping Obama." They are disgusting and should all be voted out!!!!

    May 2, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  21. Malory Archer


    Uh Hello....The Senate is controlled by the Democrats. Was not just the Republicans alone.


    Uh Hello.... Until the Dems are able to take 60 seats the "control" you believe they have is meaningless, so yeah, it WAS just the rethugs alone.

    May 2, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  22. Seattle Sue

    I have known for four years that the Republicans/Tea Party will not help President Obama for any thing. Why has it taken Mr. Toomey so long to realize this fact?

    May 2, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  23. wasserball

    Same results will be with immigration reform. Republicans would be stupid to cave in to allow 10 millions new democrat voters.

    May 2, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  24. Ratherbboating

    I don't think this was the reason it was not passed. It was a bill that was not clear and did not have the support by the people needed to pass. Things like a National gun registry (I know you say it wasn't in the bill, but it could have been added by regulation using this bill as the law to do it with), not enforcing current gun laws (like letting guns walk). And I would being willing to bet, if it can to a real vote, more Democrats would have voted against it. People are not against better background checks, we are against dumb unless laws that take away our freedoms.

    May 2, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  25. Minnie Mouse

    This has nothing to do with the president winning a legislative victory. It's about the safety of our country in it's entirety which is: your children, your grandchildren, your parents, your grandparents, neighbors, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, firefighters, police officers ect.. (All of the people who make up America). Why on Gods earth would any person not want to make a decision to keep everyone safe? Does it really matter what political position you hold or if your not in a political position at all? Passing workable legislative laws makes perfect common sense to do what is necessary to make our country safe for the sake of everyone regardless of who the credit is given to.

    May 2, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
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