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Liberals target Senate Dems for gun vote

Liberal groups already are launching efforts to deny re-election money to the four U.S. Senate Democrats who voted against the Manchin-Toomey gun background check amendment today.

The vote was 54-46 in favor – not enough “yea” votes to reach the 60-vote threshold to which Senate leaders have agreed for amendments. The Democrats who voted against the amendment were U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Mark Begich, D-Alaska; Max Baucus, D-Mont.; and Mark Pryor, D-Ark. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., changed his vote to “no” toward the end as a parliamentary tactic, reserving the right to bring up the bill again.

Baucus, Begich and Pryor all are up for re-election in 2014.

In an e-mail blast, Courage Campaign founder and chairman Rick Jacobs said the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee rely on individual donors from all over the nation to get senators elected – something that’s particularly true for senators in “purple” states.

“Tell the DNC and DSCC you won’t donate a single penny to any Senator who opposes universal background checks for gun purchases,” Jacobs wrote. “The NRA can play hardball – but so can you. We’re the activists, the Democratic base. We’re the people who donate in elections, knock on doors, and get out the vote in tight elections. We’re the difference on Election Day all around the country.

“Sign the petition: ‘I won’t donate a dime or lift a finger to help any Democrat who opposes universal background checks get elected,’” Jacobs urged.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee announced it’ll run full-page newspaper ads against the four Senators.

“Today, the Senate voted against the 91% of Americans who support background checks to stop gun violence,” PCCC cofounder Stephanie Taylor said in a news release. “We’ll be holding accountable Democrats who voted against their constituents by running ads in their states, featuring some of the 23,000 gun owners who have joined our campaign for common sense gun reform”

And Democracy for America spokesman Neil Sroka said “Democrats who were too cowardly to get on the right side of a 90-10 issue like universal background checks better believe that the progressives will remember their spinelessness on gun violence prevention come reelection time. The over 1 million members of Democracy for America nationwide work to elect progressive fighters, not U.S. Senators who can be cowed by the right-wing fringe and gun industry lobbyists like the NRA.”

Some of the Democratic senators who opposed the amendment have explained their votes. Heitkamp issued a statement Wednesday:

“I’ve been adamant from the very beginning of this conversation that the focus should be on mental health issues, full and accurate reporting into the NICS database and ensuring that we are prosecuting criminals in possession of or trying to possess firearms. This conversation should be about what is in people’s minds, not about what is in their hands. I commend Senators Manchin and Toomey for working so hard to bring a serious bill to the floor. However, in its current form I do not see a path for my support. I’ve thought long and hard about this, I’ve taken the tough meetings, and I’ve heard overwhelmingly from the people of North Dakota; and at the end of the day my duty is to listen to and represent the people of North Dakota.”

Pryor posted to his Facebook page Wednesday:

“After talking with Arkansans, I’ve decided to oppose the Manchin-Toomey amendment. It’s too broad, unworkable, and unreasonable for hunters and gun owners in our state. Instead, I’ll support the Grassley amendment that better enforces the laws we already have on the books and protects the rights of law-abiding Arkansans.”

And Begich made his views known before last week’s cloture vote:

“I’ve long believed we don’t need more laws restricting the Second Amendment rights of Americans, we need to better enforce those on the books. So I’ll continue to fight against any new laws which infringe on our rights. At the same time, we can keep our communities safer by keeping guns out of the wrong hands and providing our schools more resources. That is why Senator Graham and I wrote a bipartisan bill which has been supported by both the NRA and mental health groups.”

“I voted today against the so-called cloture motion because I strongly disagree with many of the provisions of the anti-gun legislation currently on the Senate floor. By my vote, I’ll continue to work for the opportunity to consider more sensible measures to make our communities safer. I’ll continue to oppose any proposal that undermines the fundamental rights of Alaskans.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.