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The U.S. Senate rejected a bipartisan amendment today that would have expanded background checks on gun purchases, according to news reports.

The defeat marks a blow to advocates calling for more strict firearms laws after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook E.S. in Newtown, Conn., last year.

The measure was a product of intense negotiations between Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

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It would have necessitated background check requirements on gun owners, and needed 60 votes to pass, which the two Senators thought it had.

It therefore failed, despite its 54-46 majority.


Democratic Sens. Begich of Alaska, Heidi Heitkamp of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Max Baucus of Alaska broke ranks to vote against it.

Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada also switched his vote to no at the end, a procedural tactic that allows him to still bring the same measure up for a vote later.

Other than Toomey, only three Republicans supported the amendment: Mark Kirk of Illinois, Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona.

Sixty votes are needed to cut off debate, a.k.a. a silent filibuster.

Scores of onlookers filled the Senate gallery to watch the vote.

Vice President Joseph Biden, the President of the Senate who predicted a close vote, read the final tally and announced the amendment had not passed.

Patricia Maisch, who helped disarm the man who shot former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the 2011 Tucson shooting, yelled, “Shame on you!” and walked out.

“This is going to be a close vote and I can assure you of one thing, we’re going to get this eventually,” Biden told Google in advance of the voting.

“If we don’t get this today, we’ll get this eventually.”

He promised that the White House and gun control supporters would continue to move ahead regardless of the success of today’s Senate action.