By BURGESS EVERETT and MARIANNE LEVINE | POLITICO
Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema quickly ruled out weakening the filibuster to pass gun safety legislation. Now it’s up to their Republican colleagues to prove to the centrist pair that there’s any middle ground.
The West Virginia and Arizona Democrats’ dismissal of a partisan approach, along with Sen. Chris Murphy’s (D-Conn.) lobbying against a failed vote on Democrats-only legislation, has forced Republicans to the table on guns. Whether it’s enough for the GOP to agree to even the most modest response to the murder of 19 children and two teachers in Texas is another question altogether.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said that Sinema and Manchin’s enduring opposition to gutting the 60-vote threshold “pushes the bipartisan discussions, I think, harder.”
“They’re actually saving the Senate from itself,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who wants to review Manchin’s background checks expansion legislation. “I’ve told him, ‘Look, Joe, I’m more than willing to visit with you on these issues if we could do something that could actually work and stand the test of time.’”
Bipartisan bids to legislate on guns failed repeatedly in the past decade, mostly due to GOP opposition to stricter gun laws. But Republicans acknowledge that because Manchin and Sinema preserved the filibuster, they need to at least listen to Democrats who are desperate for an agreement to reduce gun violence.
Manchin and Sinema insisted on working with Republicans to pursue last year’s infrastructure law, which resulted in a rare big bipartisan triumph. But since then, progressives have criticized Manchin and Sinema for their opposition to changing Senate rules to pass election reform, and Manchin’s own efforts to attract Republicans to back voting legislation came up empty.
And firearms are even more of a third rail issue in the Republican Party. Just two GOP senators remain in office who supported the Manchin-Toomey background checks expansion in 2013: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, both of whom are part of the new bipartisan group. Still, more potential supporters could be emerging.
“I salute them for having the presence of mind to retain the institution of the Senate,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) of Manchin and Sinema. “Manchin-Toomey has a lot of appealing features and red flags make a lot of sense. I have to look at the final bill, but the answer is I am inclined to vote for that kind of legislation.”