The Senate will vote on a series of amendments Wednesday afternoon intended to curb gun violence, but the centerpiece legislation, a compromise bill that would expand background checks drafted by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is expected to fail.
"We will not get the votes today," Manchin said during an appearance on NBC News Wednesday.
His press assistant later sent out a statement clarifying that Manchin remained optimistic because he had garnered the support of three Republicans and an 'A' rated NRA member.
The Manchin-Toomey bill, which would require private sellers at gun shows and over the Internet to administer background checks through a licensed firearms dealer, doesn't look like it has attracted enough moderate Republicans and red-state Democrats to overcome a 60-vote threshold.
While Toomey's conservative credentials were intended to quell Republican concerns that background checks infringed on Second Amendment rights, opposition persisted. Democrats blamed the National Rifle Association for backing Republicans into a corner and using scare tactics to pressure vulnerable Democrats to vote against the proposal.
"To vote against something that 90 percent of the American people want, the American people aren't going to forget about that.," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor. "The opponents of the will of the American people should not spread misinformation or sow seeds of fear about this critical anti-violence legislation, but that's what they are doing. That is what they have done."
Many Republicans, however, say their opposition has nothing to do with the gun lobby and more to do with their personal beliefs that gun violence cannot be stopped by implementing more laws.
"That is why I come down for not being for any of the proposals because they don't address the tragedy," Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said during a breakfast meeting with reporters Wednesday. "I think a lot of things in Washington are done as window dressing. It is a dog and pony show, it is a parade...all to show people something bad happened, which it did, something terribly tragic happened."
Many believed the murder of 20 children at a school in Connecticut would be enough to force action, but the political reality proved too trying.
The Democrats' narrow majority in the Senate is built on the backs of a handful of moderate Democrats who face re-election in 2014 in conservative-leaning states. Sens. Mark Begich, Alaska, Max Baucus, Mont., Kay Hagan, N.C.,and Mark Pryor, Ark., are treading on thin ice as they prepare to face constituents who are vocally pressuring them to vote against anything seen as restricting access to guns. Senate leadership acknowledges privately that of the past three cycles, this will be the toughest for Democrats to keep their majority.
Even emotional appeals from victims' families, who crisscrossed Capitol Hill over the past two weeks, and a visit by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot in the head in 2011 during a town hall, proved futile.
"I love the woman," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, says about Giffords meetings on Capitol Hill. "I think she is a wonderful person, but I also think this is a fundamental right in the Constitution. Nothing they are doing now would have prevented what happened to her in my opinion."
Background checks are only one of a series of amendments the Senate will vote on Wednesday. An amendment sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., banning assault weapons will also receive an up or down vote. The amendment has fewer than 50 senators supporting it, however it did win the praise of one new backer, Reid, who has a "B' rating from the NRA and pledged to vote for it out of solidarity with the Newtown families.
Republican lawmakers will also be allowed to offer amendments that would strengthen gun rights including a concealed carry reciprocity amendment that would treat a conceal-carry permit like a driver's license. The bill would let gun owners who had a permit to carry concealed weapons in one state to cross state lines with their firearms.
"Balancing two of this nation's most fundamental rights, this measure ensures that law-abiding Americans are able to lawfully carry their weapons across state lines while respecting the rights of each individual state to pass laws that are right for them," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the main sponsor of the amendment, in a released statement.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., will get a vote on his amendment that would penalize local and state governments that release the names or addresses of individuals who own guns. The governments would lose 5 percent of funds for their Community Oriented Policing Services program. Their share of the money would then go to more compliant communities.
While key amendments in the gun legislation have likely met the end of the road, Democrats who have worked to pass the sweeping legislation, said they were not ready to give up.
"I believe very strongly people need to stand up and vote and take a position. You cannot have these killings going on in this nation and we sit by and twiddle our thumbs and do nothing," Feinstein says. "You have to take a position. And where people take their positions is critical to the safety of our nation."