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. Fernando

    The Future, if I may:
    ~Short-term dysfunction and immobilization
    ~Long-term Democratic "super-mandate" starting Friday, January 20, 2017 with Hillary's inauguration.
    footnote: "super-mandate" will be coined during the 2016 campaign and become common political parlance as a strategy to counter the GOP filibuster. Democrats will easily gain the 60+ seats necessary to eliminate the filibuster while pundits and historians will compare Hillary's eight-year presidency (the first female and the first widow president) to the reign of Elizabeth I.

    May 2, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  2. FLindependent

    @ Joe – We need to vote everyone in congress out of office – both parties. Put new people in office to do the job that we are paying these do nothing congress and senate. Put people in office who do what is right for the country and not for the party. Vote these idiot's out-give them walking papers-take them off government payroll and health insurance amoung other benefits. This is the only way to change. get r done
    This would seem like the logical solution, however how do we know once they get to Washington they won't be bought out. It is easy for anyone running to say they will work for the people, but we've all seen how that works out.

    May 2, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  3. rs

    I think it is naive for people to believe that background checks will keep those with criminal
    record from owning a gun. They will get one regardless.
    Yeah, especially when the NRA pushes to keep allowing sales at gun shows (like here in AZ.) with no background checks, or via the internet. It is really nice the NRA supports the rights of criiminals and terrorists to buy guns.

    May 2, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  4. ST

    Are republicans ill-thinking? They are not helping Pres. Obama, they must do the work they were elected for. If they were helping him, they could had voted for him. But they didn't. Folks, don't send these kind of people to Washington again. They are totally hopeless and wasting time of everyone while pulling in checks without doing anything. Be wise!

    May 2, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  5. rs

    Look people- some of this GOP craziness on gun conrol is no doubt due to their hatred for the President and American public- that much is obvious. However there is a really sick stain in the GOP that seems to worship guns. Here, down Arizona way, Governor Brewer just signed a bill that halts the destruction of guns. Literally a Gun's Rights bill. It is illegal for guns to be destroyed as a result of gun buy-backs EVEN IF THAT IS WHAT THE OWNER WANTED.
    So much for the party of small government.

    GOP- the party that honors the rights of guns over citizens!

    May 2, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  6. Al-NY,NY

    coulda knocked me over with a feather on THIS point. The GOP loves to cry "the will of the people" and lecture others when it suits them but if things are the other way around they aren't interested

    May 2, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  7. FLindependent

    @Nicci – Adding to the post. The Democrats do the same thing as well when the Republicans are in power all Politicians work only for themselves and not for the people.
    If only this were true – seems to me Dems voted for the Iraq war debaucle because they believed the Commander in Chief and showed respect for him (even though he wasn't even duly elected!). Face it, the Dem party is not the one that is anti-American and will vote for what they believe is right for the country, not the party most of the time. What have the Repubs done for this country since 2000??

    May 2, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  8. Guest

    The problem with liberalism is that you try to stand for everything and end up standing for absolutely nothing. No moral compass at all and certainly not the direction our nation should move in. Cant fix stupid though, and most of the comments here confirm that with near certainty! The totality of democratic ignorance is astonishing and disturbing all at once, like a bad wreck that you can see coming but cant stop in time.

    May 2, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  9. Pete

    It's hilarious how McConnell voted no just to get back to it later..What BS and all it is more grandstanding from the one in McConnell with egg on his face because of him publicly advocating in a one term for Pres Obama and that didn't work either did it Mitch!!Go back to the simple majority rule of anything over 50 wins ,get rid of that republican created super vote and its fillibusters that republicans are well noted for..Than maybe republicans will finally work for something that benefits America or am I asking too much of them!!

    May 2, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  10. steve

    So, the GOP didn't want to be seen as "helping" the Democrats. Yeah, that is *so* much more important than those who have been shot and killed in unnecessary gun violence. Good idea. Wins my vote, for sure, right? ..... Oh well, maybe I'm just another "bleeding-heart liberal". :/

    May 2, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  11. bob

    Wow, not helping the president, would they really do that?

    May 2, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  12. norb

    >>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 ...

    Seriously??? A background check would NOT have prevented this tragedy!!! A background check should prevent this person from ever owning a gun again, but it would not have prevented it in the first place. Come on people think these things through!!!

    May 2, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  13. mikeyK

    What is all this talk about compromise, I hear? What is in it for gun owners?

    Repeal the NFA act of 1934 as a compromise and you'll have gun owners screaming from the roofs to have universal background checks.

    May 2, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  14. Ferathka

    Does this really surprise anyone? Congress has been doing this since 2010 since they took the House. They don't want the President to succeed because they don't like the President. They are all for party and not for country. We need to vote out every last one!!

    May 2, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  15. Jeff

    What Senator Toomey says is not a revelation. The GOP leadership, Mitch McConnell (turtle man), stated on day one that the primary goal of the GOP is to prevent any Obama legislative or election victories. Toomey's claim is not anything new nor is it a big surprise. Unfortunately the GOP is more interested in getting the black man out of the white house rather than taking care of business. As far as the Hilliary comments- if she runs, the GOP is done.

    May 2, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  16. norb

    I think it is naive for people to believe that background checks will keep those with criminal
    record from owning a gun. They will get one regardless.
    Yeah, especially when the NRA pushes to keep allowing sales at gun shows (like here in AZ.) with no background checks, or via the internet. It is really nice the NRA supports the rights of criiminals and terrorists to buy guns.


    So you really believe that if there were background checks for everyone that a criminal and terrorist would not get a gun??? You are kidding yourself - this has nothing to do with the NRA - if there is a demand a supply will be there regardless - look at prohibition!! We seem to be a nation that says if we put enough regulations in place we can control everything - that will not work!!!

    May 2, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  17. DeftTrolling

    "saying some in his party simply voted against the measure to prevent the president from winning a legislative victory."
    I highly disagree. some people were in real danger of losing their seats, other people viewed it (regardless of whether it's correct or not) as an inappropriate overreaction to a minor, yet terrible, violent crime

    May 2, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  18. ghostriter

    Even with this announcement, conservative posters are still clinging to their guns and religion (of more guns). More and more talk is coming out that more republicans would have voted for this bill, but didn't. Some point ot Ted Cruz polarizing conservatives. This is about the same.

    To all of you still clinging to the misguided notion that there was more to this bill, you are mistaken. This bill was about background checks only.

    Lastly, to those saying this wouldn't have prevented are right. But neither of the bills proposed by republicans would have either. Matter of fact, they did even less. But that's not the point. This was the only thing that COULD have passed. Gun registration, which the ATF has been asking for for years (remember the NRA saying Obama should listen to law enforcement?) would stop a good deal of straw buying. Thus preventing bad guys from getting guns.

    Last lastly. Republicans are the ones responsible for the lackluster prosecution of those who fail a background check. They have essentially rendered the ATF moot. Yet complain that Obama is not doing his job. Actually, he is following the laws that republicans pushed for. So don't listen to Obama, if you hate him so much. However, listen to the NRA and see what law enforcement has to say.

    May 2, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  19. ghostriter are partially correct. And this is because a registry would actually be needed. If conservatives weren't such nutcases, it would happen.

    As it stands, law enforcement has no way of tracing guns past the original point of sale. So straw buyer A could purchase guns and sell them to "others" without a background check. If asked, he could just say he doesn't remember who he sold it to and he's free and clear.

    Are you conservatives really OK with that? Just because of some nutcase theory of confiscation?

    May 2, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  20. norb

    I can't believe this article. It works really hard to blame Republicans and to make it look like Obama and the Dems are in a catch 22. I wish CNN would be more honest in it's reporting.
    Catch-22 is too kind. We're stuck working with the American version of the Taliban with today's GOP


    RS, Taliban, really? So they openly promoting the killing of those that oppose them, really? RS, it is people like you and the HATE you are spueing that is why this nation and this congress is so polarized.

    May 2, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  21. Steve

    When your political adversay's are floating the notion that the government is engaging in a conspiracy to buy all the ammunition on the market to use on it's own citizens and make ammo scarce in the market place, where do you go from there?

    May 2, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  22. ritmocojo

    Nothing that we already didn't know.

    May 2, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  23. Thomas

    Where can i buy a 22 long rifle for my 5 year old on the internet ?

    Kentucky ?

    May 2, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  24. Larry

    GOP continue to embarras themselves and their party. As voters, can we please make this party of rich people for rich people just go away forever?

    May 2, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  25. CraigRB

    The NRA is a terrorist sponsor by favoring no background checks for criminals or terrorists.

    May 2, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
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