New York Congressman Peter King is emerging as the key Republican in the House who will likely determine whether expanded background checks become law.
King will introduce the House version of the Manchin-Toomey compromise amendment from the Senate and thinks he can swing enough GOP votes to pass it.
Republican Rep. Peter King of New York said he doesn't want to be "reinventing" the wheel on the gun bill in the Senate and plans to make a similar background check proposal in the House with Rep. Mike Thompson, D-California.
"My goal would be to get the strongest background check bill we can," King said.
His office has been in touch with GOP Sen. Pat Toomey's office. The senator from Pennsylvania teamed up with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, in last-minute talks to reach a bipartisan deal that could get enough support in the Senate to pass.
The deal will expand the background check system for gun purchases to gun shows and internet sales.
A Democratic leadership source said the compromise will likely be the first amendment to gun legislation being considered.
But with Republicans in control in the House, any bill passed by the Senate is expected to face an uphill battle in the lower chamber.
House Speaker John Boehner repeated his line Wednesday that the House will "review" whatever the Senate passes and emphasized a need to better enforce the current system in place.
"We are not enforcing the laws that we have on the books today," he said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "So if we are going to have a background check that is in the law let's make sure we do a real background check which in not all cases actually happens."
King admitted he was an "outlier" within House GOP on gun issue and said he has not talked to Boehner or other leaders yet about the bill. His counterpart, Thompson, chairs the House Democratic gun task force.
Rep. King told WaPo's Greg Sargent:
"The combination of having Manchin and Toomey as the main sponsors, and assuming it can pass the Senate with a significant majority, greatly increases the chances that it will attract enough Republican support to pass the House," Rep. King told me in an interview. "If Pat Toomey can support it, most conservatives should be able to support it and should want to support it."
King said he has been in talks with a number of House Republicans about joining the effort, and that he would be "aggressive" in pursuing them in the wake of the Toomey-Manchin announcement, which could help change the debate for some conservatives. Yesterday Toomey said there are a "substantial number" of House Republicans who support his proposal's "general approach."
Speaker Boehner has indicated that he is inclined to allow a vote on the gun bill to go forward, but perhaps not a specific amendment on background checks. Even if he does allow it, it is not at all clear that it would pass, since there are several Democrats who have indicated their opposition to the idea. King would probably need a couple of dozen Republicans to vote for his amendment in order for it to stand a chance of passage.
It's not the first time that King has bucked the GOP majority. He was the catalyst for getting the House to approve aid to Hurricane Sandy victims. Whether he can drag enough Republicans along with him on his background check amendment is another matter.