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.

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker']

"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. Dason

    Who didn't know this already??

    May 1, 2013 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  2. mike

    The whole bunch are sick and could care less about the people and what we want.
    Vote them all out.

    May 1, 2013 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  3. JBAZ

    The problem isn't that politicians are playing partisan politics- well, at least in the sense that there's nothing new about that. Instead, the problem is that the two sides cannot even come together on an issue that A) is in no way controversial (we're not talking gun restriction here, only keeping guns out of the hands of criminals) and B) is supported by nearly 60% of Americans. That is shameful, but before we criticize them we need to understand that it is the PEOPLE who elected them to begin with. If 60% of Americans are truly in support of this legislation and are tired of seeing partisan politics EVERY DAY, then we need to SHOW UP at the polls come 2014.

    May 1, 2013 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  4. FactChecker

    It has been obvious for a long time that Republicans will vote against things they know would benefit the country just to hurt Obama. A very frequent source of humor on "The Daily Show" is to show videos of Republicans arguing vehemently against something Obama backs and then they show earlier videos of the exact same people arguing just as vehemently in favor of the exact same thing.

    May 1, 2013 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  5. tkzed


    More Obstructionist rhetoric from the right.
    So Original.
    Sorry to the small children who died at the hands of a mentally challenged youth with a gun.
    No thanks to the Repubs.

    May 1, 2013 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  6. django

    The Republicans, or should I use a small r– republicans are "sick" puppies. For them to let one person die for their
    ill fated gains is unconscionable.

    May 1, 2013 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  7. Jacob Ransome

    The President treats the entire Repulican party and leadership like crap for 4 years claiming he has some big mandate. Now he discovers his mandate is a whopping 3%age points of a highly divided nation. Now he can't get a thing done without those idiot republicans he and his little crowd of sycophantic staff hate so much. And he is now surprised and indignant? What a dope.......

    May 1, 2013 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  8. ney

    Well at least they have save their souls and washed their hand from this issue, next tragedy strickes (just a matter of when) God save our souls. How sad, it is so sad. No mother and father should live through something like this. The question is whose kid is it going to get shot tonight? and which parents are not going to hug their child anymore. Peace

    May 1, 2013 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  9. mccainin4

    So, if Republicans can't be seen as helping the President do the right thing, can they give gun sellers and buyers access to report their gun sales to the national databases?

    May 1, 2013 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  10. Pete

    And, yes, Obama will still be blamed for not being able to get anything done. Glad to see that Ayotte is getting some blowback from her constituents in NH about her gun control vote. Absolutely zero political courage from both sides of the aisle, and very little from the president.

    May 1, 2013 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  11. john

    Maybe they will change their minds after the next mass shooting.

    May 1, 2013 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  12. bassman

    Or... maybe the Republicans agreed with Pres.Obama. Pres.Obama has said the bill would not have stopped the tragic Sandy Hook shooting. What is the point of passing a feel good bill?

    May 1, 2013 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  13. DougNJ

    Ho-Hum, how all predictable this has all become. Nothing new under the sun.

    May 1, 2013 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  14. labman57

    This is yet another example of a key aspect of the GOP mindset ever since Obama was first elected as POTUS - political contrarianism.

    If Obama is for "it", then Republicans will be against "it", no matter what "it" happens to be - even if "it" is a program or policy position that they would normally support and/or is strongly favored by their constituents.

    May 1, 2013 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  15. AndyM

    GOP, for the most part, voted in lockstep opposition just to spite Obama? Wow. Big news there. Pope is Catholic, as well, in case anyone was wondering.

    May 1, 2013 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  16. JoJo

    '"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.'

    No kiddin'? I'm very surprised! That's not very nice. (I'm teaching my 5 year old to pack heat when she goes to school).

    May 1, 2013 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  17. hannah

    What have these Republicans come to? They are the downfall of this nation. That they would vote against this gun law just because it would help Obama? How short sighted can they be. How about helping the people of this nation. I hope people realize that it is time to clean house and get these people out of Washington. The Republican right wing is not working for the people; they need to go.

    May 1, 2013 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  18. MaryM

    Really? What a surprise. Tell us something we did not know. Republican obstructionist will be voted out of office asap

    May 1, 2013 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  19. Jim

    I have two problems with the expanded gun checks:
    1) They're worthless unless the necessary data (mental health, criminal records, etc) is loaded into the databases the checks query against. Much of that data is NOT there, so having more queries against limited data won't help much.

    2) These checks will make it essentially impossible for a private citizen to sale a gun. Instead, if you have a gun and want to sell it, you'll basically have to either pay a dealer a fee or sell it to a dealer. Imagine if we did the same with cars, saying, "You have to do various database queries on the new buyer - you can't do that so you'll just have to sale to a dealer, take a loss, and let him (the dealer) make the profit."

    May 1, 2013 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  20. Bazinga

    They didnt want to help Obama, so more children inevitably will be shot by high caliber assault weapons equipped with high capacity magazines, purchased at a Gun show without a background check...common-sense measures, not infringing on anyones 2nd amendment rights, maybe saving some innocent people....nah, not important as scoring political points!

    May 1, 2013 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  21. Lenny Pincus

    You can't "help" the president? Like I've said many times, Republicans aren't really Americans.

    May 1, 2013 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  22. Dan5404

    Toomey is realizing what the rest of us have known since Mitch McConnell and some other GOP leaders met before Obama even got inaugurated the first time. They vowed to make Obama a "one term president by doing absolutely nothing on any bills the Democrats proposed. Well, their policies and candidates failed twice, but they continue to see that half of congress does nothing except double down on their unpopular policies and block any compromise for reasonable bills to help the economy, while continuing to try to suppress minority votes and flood the country with more untraceable guns.

    May 1, 2013 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  23. Herewe Goagain

    If I were in congress I wouldn't vote for anything Obama wants either. Anything.

    May 1, 2013 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  24. Sparknut

    Putting party ahead of country = treason.
    Putting your dislike of the President ahead of country = stupid + treason

    May 1, 2013 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  25. jerry

    A lot of us flatly opposed the Toomey-Manchin bill because we strongly believe that it was going to be bad law and an infringement on our 2nd Amendment Rights that would be exploited by the Feinstein's and Schumer's at the very first opportunity. The Obama apologists want to make it all about Obama....well, sorry guys, it's really all about the Constitution and about protecting the Rights of Americans.

    May 1, 2013 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23