Moderate Republican’s gun plan faces hurdles in her own party

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WASHINGTON – Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins is facing an uphill battle in her effort to corral support for a bipartisan plan to deny guns to those on a government no-fly list.

She’s working hard to convince fellow Republicans to back her proposal while Democrats say the gun lobby is working to defeat it. At a Tuesday afternoon news conference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would allow a vote on Collins’ bill, but declined to say when the vote would be held or his personal views on the legislation.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson told reporters Thursday the National Rifle Association is “vigorously opposing” Collins’ bill. He supports her effort, and said it includes some provisions he has pushed. But Nelson has one major caveat — he and other Democrats won’t agree to vote for it “until we know that she has got the votes to meet the 60-vote threshold.”

The NRA has not responded to CNN’s request for comment on the proposal, but one NRA official said they were awaiting final details on the legislation.

But if the NRA publicly opposes the measure Collins’ efforts are likely to fail, as many Senate Republicans might be reluctant to be at odds with the powerful lobby.

Collins said she hasn’t spoken to the NRA about the proposal, but asked about Democrats saying they are lobbying against it, Collins said, “I can’t speak for the NRA.”

Collins said she had eight co-sponsors, including four Republicans and four Democrats (which includes independent Sen. Angus King who caucuses with the Democrats).

Tuesday afternoon, New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte announced the bipartisan group, which includes Collins, King, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota; Sen. Martin Heinreich, D-New Mexico; Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona; Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina; and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, whose on proposal on guns failed Monday, says he has some concerns about the due process issues in the bill “in the front end” but told reporters he is willing to listen to get more information on the proposal.

He said he expects a vote Thursday on Collins’ proposal.

Flake urged fellow Republicans on the floor to back the plan, which he has helped craft, saying the small bipartisan group working on the bill wants to draft something that can actually pass, “not just protect one party or another.”

Collins and some of her allies met with McConnell and other GOP leaders midday Tuesday and planned to present the proposal to all Senate Republicans at their weekly lunch meeting.

California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, said she was optimistic Collins’ proposal will pass.

“I believe I can predict we can get all of the 46 Democrats. All she needs is 14 Republicans. She said she is really working on it,” Boxer said.

By Deirdre Walsh, CNN Senior Congressional Producer

CNN’s Betsy Klein, Manu Raju and Naomi Lim contributed to this report.

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