Could Sen. Pat Toomey be the Democrats chance to get gun control legislation passed?
Reports circulated Friday afternoon that the Pennsylvania Republican is in talks with West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin on a bill to expand background checks on gun sales, which is considered the one piece of the Democrats' guns agenda with a chance of becoming law.
"Manchin-Toomey negotiations, if successful, could provide a breakthrough on a key issue facing the White House and Senate Democrats," insider DC-publication Politico first wrote. The idea is that support from someone like Toomey could bring other Republicans onboard, particularly those Republicans in Philadelphia suburban districts where the issue plays well.
Toomey's office has neither denied nor confirmed the rumors. His communications director, E.R. Anderson, said only, “Sen Toomey and his staff are talking to a lot of folks -- both in Pennsylvania and in the Capitol -- on the issue of guns in the hopes that we get to an approach that works.”
Politically it makes sense that Toomey could be the potential bridge to get gun legislation passed. Toomey faces what could be a tough re-election in 2016, a presidential year when Pennsylvania Democrats turn out to vote. And while Pennsylvania has a strong gun owning culture, expanding background checks has around 90 percent support in polls of Pennsylvania voters.
All along Toomey has said he'd be open to improving the background check system for gun sales, but he's never been specific about what that would entail.
CeaseFirePA, a nonprofit advocacy group for gun control, is planning a rally in front of Toomey's center city Philadelphia office featuring former Gov. Ed Rendell next week. Their central message will be that Pennsylvanians want commonsense gun laws, said Shira Goodman, the group’s president.
If Toomey makes his support official before the Tuesday morning rally the event will still go on as a way for supporters to show thanks.
“This is an issue that will determine how people vote,” Goodman said. “If he is the bridge, we will be thanking him. If he stood up for Pennsylvania, we’re going to stand up for him.”