Reid could try beginning Senate debate on legislation that has already been approved by the Judiciary Committee. It would extend the background check requirement to nearly all gun purchases, strengthen laws against illegal firearms purchases and modestly boost aid for school safety.
If Reid does that, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will join conservatives' efforts to prevent the measure from being debated, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said.
In hopes of enhancing the prospects for Senate approval, Reid has been hoping a bipartisan deal could be struck. There are 53 Senate Democrats and two independents who lean toward them, meaning GOP support ultimately will be needed to reach 60 votes to move ahead.
Manchin has been hoping for a deal with Toomey that would expand the requirement to sales at gun shows and online while exempting other transactions, such as those between relatives and those involving private, face-to-face purchases.
Currently, federal background checks are required for sales by licensed gun dealers but not for other transactions. The system is aimed at preventing criminals, people with severe mental health problems and others from getting firearms.
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., has also continued working for a bipartisan deal. Kirk, though, is considered too moderate to bring other GOP senators with him.
Efforts by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to reach a background check compromise with conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., foundered over Schumer's insistence that records of private transactions be kept. Schumer said records are the only way to assure the checks were actually performed, while Coburn opposed them as a step toward government files on gun owners.
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