A high profile piece of bipartisan background check legislation lacked sufficient support in the Senate Wednesday, but its sponsor said his friendship with Illinois' junior senator helped propel the proposal further than otherwise expected.
Shortly before the Senate voted down legislation that would have mandated background checks at gun shows and in online sales, Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, told the Daily Herald that "the first person (to offer assistance), without hesitation, was my dear friend, who said, 'I'll be part of it.' "
The measure -- rallied for both by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat who was permanently injured in a shooting in her home state, and by the parents of children killed in the Newton, Conn., school shootings -- failed Wednesday afternoon, with 54 votes of support, six short of the required 60 to move ahead.
Kirk's spokesman Lance Trover said the senator worked behind the scenes to lobby other Republicans. In the end, however, only four Republicans, including Kirk, supported the deal.
In a statement, Kirk said he was "disappointed that the Senate could not come together to support a bipartisan proposal that would reduce gun violence and protect law-abiding gun owners, but American voters are the ultimate judge of today's result."
Manchin said Kirk, a Republican and longtime naval reservist who plans to retire from the service soon, pushed for a provision that would allow veterans to contest their placement in the national instant criminal background check system, a computer database which prohibits some from purchasing firearms because of mental health history or criminal records.
In a video released Wednesday, Kirk described that provision as "just and honorable given their (veterans') service to the country."
But Manchin also said that Kirk, who voted for the legislation Wednesday, held steadfast to closing all loopholes at gun shows, a point of contention among some other Republicans.
Kirk, in Chicago earlier this month, met with Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who told him that 40 percent of guns picked up by the Chicago Police were purchased at a gun show without a background check.
Kirk and Manchin established a weekly lunching tradition shortly after Kirk's 2010 election to the Senate. It was Manchin who stood by Kirk's side Jan. 3 as he made an ascent up the Senate steps for the first time, since suffering a serious stroke in January 2012.
The Senate voted down a series of other gun control measures Wednesday. Kirk was the lone Republican to vote for an amendment to ban assault weapons.