On April 17th, the Senate rejected an amendment expanding background checks to gun shows and online sales. A majority, 54 Senators, voted for the expanded law, but Senate rules require 60 votes. Both Begich and Senator Lisa Murkowski voted against the measure.
A recent Gallup Poll shows 83% of Americans support expanded background checks; a slight tick down from 91% just a few months ago.
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said six months after the shooting the families of victims remain undeterred.
“The momentum is undiminished. The passion is stronger, if anything,” he said flanked by families from Newtown. “We lost the first vote, but we’re going to win the last vote. And the one who wins the last vote is the one who wins. ”
He compared the two days – the shooting and the vote.
“December 14th was a day of searing sadness, but April 17th was a day of shame,” he said.
Reid said he’ll bring up the measure again. He promises he will not accept a “watered down bill.” He has not explained what that means.
It remains unclear whether the Senate will vote on other measures like an amendment Begich promotes outlawing the seriously mentally ill from owning guns. Reid said it’s not if the Senate passes the background check bill, it’s when the Senate passes the background check bill.
“The writing is on the wall,” Reid said. “The Republicans who voted against this: The writing is on the wall. And the Democrats who voted against this; the handful of Democrats who voted against this.”
That handful includes Begich, Max Baucus, who is retiring, Mark Pryor and Heidi Heitkamp. Pryor, like Begich, is up for reelection in 2014 in a Republican state.
At a Capitol Hill press conference last week marking the anniversary, Matt Soto read the names and ages of the victims who were murdered in Newtown. He paused to compose himself when he got to his older sister, a teacher at Sandy Hook elementary.
The families of the victims have returned to Capitol Hill to lobby for the background checks. Begich met with them last week, and again told them he would vote no.
If the families can’t win over hesitant senators, one person hopes to punish them at the polls: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg, the billionaire who’s been a Democrat, Republican and now independent, sent a letter to wealthy New York donors urging them to withhold donations to Begich and the other no votes.
One of those New Yorkers is Peter J. Solomon. The investment banker gave $2500 to Begich in the first quarter of 2013. He’s donated nearly $5000 since 2008. He refused to comment for this story, but his aide gave a statement on his behalf.
It said he respects both Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Begich, that he disagrees with Begich on gun control, but will continue to donate to him because he prefers a Senate in the Democrats’ control.
Begich said many of his donors don’t agree with his vote on background checks.
“At their request they’d call, or I’d call because I know they have concerns. But I’m not afraid to talk to people about my position and my votes,” he said from New York Monday morning.
It’s unclear when the debate will begin again on the Senate floor. Reid said this time, he will not bring it up for a vote until he knows he has the votes to pass it.