In a last-minute effort to rally support for a gun bill amendment expanding background checks on gun purchases, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin on Wednesday spoke at a secretive weekly briefing for Washington's most prominent conservatives, led by activist Grover Norquist.
Norquist coordinates the off-the-record strategy meeting in the downtown office of his group Americans for Tax Reform, where scores of conservatives gather every Wednesday to collaborate and share ideas. Gun rights activists regularly attend, and Norquist sits on the board of the National Rifle Association, which opposes the gun-reform bill currently in the Senate.
According to notes provided to Yahoo News from a person inside the meeting, Manchin implored the group to support a measure he's co-sponsoring with Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey to increase the reach of background checks on gun owners, telling them that it was "the best possible legislation" that Second Amendment supporters could hope for.
The West Virginia Democrat emphasized that the proposal, scheduled for a vote on Wednesday afternoon in the Senate, would increase interstate reciprocity for gun permits and would not create a national registry. He spoke for 10 minutes and took questions.
The Senate is expected to vote on nine gun-related provisions on Wednesday, starting with the Manchin-Toomey amendment. As late as Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Vice President Joseph Biden said the measure still lacks the support needed to pass the chamber.
In the wake of the deadly mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., in December, Democratic lawmakers have pressed for new rules that among other things would increase restrictions on magazine size and ownership of certain weapons, and widen the reach of background checks.