WASHINGTON — The Senate moved to begin long-anticipated deliberations Thursday over new gun laws as Republicans appeared to lack the strength to block the debate and bipartisan talks over expanding background checks on gun buyers appeared to have led to a deal.
Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), who have been negotiating a compromise on background checks, scheduled a joint announcement for Wednesday morning at the Capitol.
The gun bill has been taking shape since 20 first-graders and six staff members died almost four months ago in a fusillade of 154 bullets at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It would authorize money to secure schools and increase penalties for gun trafficking. But the most significant element, an expansion of the background check system to cover almost all sales, including those at gun shows, has been contentious.
On Tuesday evening, Manchin, who has led efforts to craft a proposal that could draw enough Republican votes to pass the closely divided Senate, expressed optimism that he was near his goal.