Three vulnerable Senate Democrats seeking reelection in 2014 joined most Senate Republicans in thwarting the bipartisan amendment mandating background checks for gun purchasers on Wednesday. The amendment -- introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., along with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. -- earned 54 votes, a majority, but short of the 60 required to be adopted as part of the broader gun legislation.
Had all 55 Democrats and independents who caucus with Democrats voted for the amendment, it still would have fallen one vote short. Just four Republicans -- including one up for reelection in 2014, Susan Collins of Maine -- voted for the bill. That fact, combined with the bill's long odds in the GOP-controlled House, made voting for the amendment a difficult task for some red-state Democrats.
Two other Democrats -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota -- also voted against the amendment. Reid's vote was procedural; he supports the measure, but by voting no it enables him to bring it before the Senate again.
Other Republicans voting for the bill are up in 2016: Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois, John McCain of Arizona and Toomey.
Some of the votes that caught our eye:
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. (No): Alexander voted to allow debate, but he said last week that he would oppose the amendment. There was some chatter early in the cycle that Alexander could be challenged from the right in a GOP primary, but he moved quickly to galvanize GOP support within the state.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. (No): Having survived reelection in 1996 by the closest margin in his career after taking a tough gun control vote under Bill Clinton, Baucus, who did not disclose his vote before casting it on the floor, seemed determined not to head down that road again. He repeatedly talked about listening to only the will of Montanans in the run-up to the vote.
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska (No): Begich's vote was a far from a surprise; he joined conservative Republicans in an unsuccessful effort to stop the amendment from coming to the floor last week.
Collins (Yes): Collins has taken heat recently from both sides of the gun debate, and she privately has expressed concern that her vote for the bill could attract a GOP primary challenge. But there's been almost no chatter about a potential conservative foe, and strategists in Maine and Washington agree that she'll likely sail to reelection.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. (No): Graham voted to allow debate on the amendment, but unlike McCain, usually a close ally, Graham voted against adopting it. An unsuccessful 2010 GOP congressional candidate announced Tuesday that he would challenge Graham from the right, where Graham is considered more vulnerable.
Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C. (Yes): Hagan indicated earlier this week that she would vote with the majority of her caucus in support of the bill, calling it an "effective" measure that would help in "protecting our kids" without infringing on voters' Second Amendment rights. But Hagan, who still lacks a credible 2014 challenger, said that she would vote against more extreme gun control measures, including bans on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. (Yes): Landrieu, has yet to announce whether she will support further gun control legislation. Though she seems, like Hagan, to be an unlikely yea vote on those measures. Time will tell whether voters make the distinction between the Toomey-Manchin bill and further curbs on gun owners, but national Republicans almost certainly won't. "Mary Landrieu openly opposes wishes of voters in Louisiana -- probably strongest pro-gun state in America. Interesting strategy," National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Brad Dayspring said in a tweet this afternoon. Later Wednesday, Landrieu's office emailed reporters under the subject line: "LANDRIEU VOTES TO STRENGTHEN SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS FOR LOUISIANIANS."
Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. (No): Like Begich, Pryor was not expected to support the measure, given his opposition to giving the amendment a vote in the first place.
Nine Republican senators retiring or up in 2016 or 2018 voted to proceed with debate on the amendment but ultimately opposed it: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire (up in 2016), Richard Burr of North Carolina (up in 2016), Saxby Chambliss of Georgia (retiring in 2014), Tom Coburn of Oklahoma (retiring in 2016), Jeff Flake of Arizona (up in 2018), Dean Heller of Nevada (up in 2018), John Hoeven of North Dakota (up in 2016), Johnny Isakson of Georgia (up in 2016) and Roger Wicker of Mississippi (up in 2018).