Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) blamed President Barack Obama Tuesday for the defeat in the Senate of legislation to expand background checks.
"I would suggest the administration brought this on themselves," Toomey said in an interview with The Morning Call. "I think the president ran his re-election campaign in a divisive way. He divided Americans. He was using resentment of some Americans toward others to generate support for himself. That was very divisive, that has consequences, that lingers."
"I understand why people have some apprehension about this administration," he added. "I don't agree with the conclusion as it applies to my [background checks] amendment, but I understand where the emotion comes from."
Last Wednesday, Toomey's amendment, crafted with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), fell short of the 60-vote threshold needed to pass the Senate with a final vote of 54 to 46. Only three Republicans joined Toomey by voting in its favor: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and John McCain (Ariz.). Three red state Democrats facing reelection in 2014, Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Mark Begich (Alaska) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) voted against the measure. Baucus has since announced that he will not seek reelection. Other amendments, such as a strengthened federal gun trafficking statute, ban on assault weapons and limit on high-capacity magazines, also failed.
The failure of the legislation can hardly be attributed to Obama, who pressed for measures to reduce gun violence after the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., took the lives of 20 children and six educators. The president's gun control agenda included farther-reaching reforms, such as bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, but he later focused the push on expanded background checks, which have the support of 90 percent of Americans.
The White House even endorsed the Toomey-Manchin compromise, which would have expanded background checks for firearm purchases but was a significantly watered-down alternative to legislation initially sought by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Obama addressed the failure of the Toomey-Manchin amendment shortly after the vote last week, flanked by Newtown families and former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), who was shot in the head in the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz. The president said the National Rifle Association "willfully lied" about the bill, escalating the pressure on pro-gun lawmakers to thwart the legislation.
Manchin, Toomey's co-author in the process, has pointed to that pressure to explain the bill's defeat.
"The pressure! Oh, the outside pressures," Manchin told The Huffington Post. "I guess sometimes the trappings of being in elected office are overwhelming."
Toomey's comments instead reflect a need to throw red meat at a conservative base that might feel incensed by his partnership with Democrats.