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First Thoughts: Under the gun

Under the gun: This week’s vote on Manchin-Toomey background check amendment will determine if gun-control advocates can get meaningful reform through the Senate… Crack that whip: As things stand right now, Manchin-Toomey could get a MAXIMUM of 64 votes, per NBC’s Kasie Hunt… Rubio goes all-in on immigration reform… Gosnell case gets more and more attention… Santorum cancels Iowa trip due to illness… And more numbers from our NBC/WSJ poll.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

As the Senate takes up gun legislation in Washington, DC , Cristiana Verro browses for guns on sale at the National Armory gun store on April 11, 2013 in Pompano Beach, Fla.

*** Under the gun: For gun-control advocates, this week’s vote on the Manchin-Toomey compromise on background checks will be the most important in the entire gun debate so far, because it will determine if they have a chance at passing meaningful reform through the Senate. So in advance of this vote, which will take place on either Tuesday or Wednesday, supporters are charging ahead. Per NBC’s Kasie Hunt, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) pressed colleagues over the weekend to support the background-check compromise, and they both plan to spend hours on the Senate floor this afternoon making speeches and answering colleagues’ questions. Also, President Obama sits down for an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie to talk guns and other issues. And tomorrow, Hunt adds, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) will be on the Hill to press her colleagues to vote for the background check compromise. One more thing to note about this week: Tuesday will be the sixth anniversary of the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech.

*** Crack that whip: But even if the Manchin-Toomey amendment on background checks passes (it needs 60 votes), and if there are no so-called “poison pill” amendments added, there’s still an important obstacle for reformers to overcome: The House of Representatives. As we’ve seen the past -- with the fiscal-cliff deal and Hurricane Sandy relief -- the House is willing to bring legislation to the floor that isn’t supported by a “majority of the majority” if it has garnered 70 or more votes in the Senate. And right now, the Manchin-Toomey measure is nowhere close to getting that number. Per NBC’s Hunt, 53 senators support it, 36 currently oppose it, and 11 are unknown. That means, as things stand right now, the MAXIMUM support the amendment could get is 64 votes -- not near a threshold that would pressure Speaker Boehner. More from Hunt’s whip count: The Republicans in favor: Toomey, Mark Kirk, Susan Collins, and John McCain (who hasn’t issued a definitive statement but has come very close). The Democrats against: Mark Begich and Mark Pryor (who hasn’t issued a definitive statement but has come very close). Democrats who could vote “no”: Max Baucus, Kay Hagan, Heidi Heitkamp, and Mary Landrieu. The Republicans who could vote “yes”: Jeff Flake, Kelly Ayotte, Dean Heller, John Hoeven, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss. (On MSNBC, Isakson said it's "doubtful" he'll support it, but left the door open.) And here’s one question mark: Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg is ill, and leadership aides doubt he will be well enough to participate.

*** Rubio goes all-in on immigration reform: Yet unlike on guns, the Gang of Eight immigration proposal -- expected to be unveiled on Tuesday -- appears headed to getting 70-plus Senate votes. Why? Supporters can thank Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who appeared on all the Sunday shows to sell the immigration reform plan, especially to conservatives. “Our legal immigration system is broken. It's not good for anybody, the way it works right now,” Rubio said on “Meet the Press” yesterday. “And this bill modernizes it in a way that's going to get broad-based support… [W]hat it does is it creates a way for us to address the millions of people that are here undocumented in a way that's compassionate, but also, in a way that's responsible.” Over the past several weeks, we’ve wondered if Rubio -- due to some of his statements -- was 100% committed to immigration reform or if he was looking for a way out. But after his Sunday show blitz, it’s pretty clear that Rubio is all-in, as Politico recently put it. There’s not an exit ramp for him anymore. And remember the role Rubio is set to play: He’s not charged with getting it passed the Senate; he’s charged with getting the bill a BIG number in the Senate (by lobbying and giving cover for conservatives), because that’s the key to unlocking the House.

*** Gosnell case gets more and more attention: Outside of Washington, the story about Kermit Gosnell, an abortion doctor facing charges in the deaths of a patient and seven babies allegedly born alive, is gaining more and more attention. And the story has become a rallying cry for an anti-abortion community who believes that this case should receive the same amount of attention that the shootings in Newtown, CT did. And, like Newtown, they believe it should start a larger conversation about when abortion should be legal.  Abortion-rights supporters counter that the story isn’t about public policy; rather, it’s about an alleged butcher who ran an illegal abortion clinic and is now being prosecuted. At a minimum, this story is serving as a rallying cry for the anti-abortion community and could end up setting up some contentious battles in state legislatures as some use the trial as the impetus to try and change some abortion laws. 

*** Santorum cancels Iowa events due to illness: Former Pennsylvania Sen. and presidential candidate Rick Santorum was supposed to deliver remarks at two different events in Iowa today, but he canceled due to an illness. "While traveling in South Carolina on Saturday, Rick Santorum became ill and was admitted to the hospital for a gastro-intestinal illness and dehydration,” Santorum spokeswoman Virginia Davis said. “He is feeling better today but remains in the hospital and is unable to travel to Iowa on Monday, April 15 for previously scheduled events. He is expected to resume a full schedule later this week and looks forward to returning to Iowa soon."

*** “Lean In” into these numbers: In addition to the numbers on immigration, guns, and gay rights, our most recent NBC/WSJ poll measured women’s perceptions about how they are treated in the workplace and at home. The conclusion from the numbers: These perceptions haven’t changed much in the past decade-plus. According to the poll, 46% of women said they had personally experienced discrimination because they are a woman, and that percentage was virtually unchanged from the last time the poll asked this question in 2000. (So in a half a generation, following the hiring of more women CEOs, more women getting into politics, nothing’s changed on the discrimination front. That’s NOT insignificant, folks.) In addition, more than eight-in-10 women agreed with the statement that they are paid less than men (pretty much unchanged from 1997), and two-thirds agreed that most women can’t “have it all” without making a lot of sacrifices (down from more than three-quarters who said this in ’97).

*** Other noteworthy nuggets from our NBC/WSJ poll: 58% of people who know a gay or lesbian person believe gay people are born gay (compared with 50% of all respondents in the poll who say gay people are born that way), while just 39% of those who do NOT know a gay person agree… Among Latinos ages 40 and older, Marco Rubio has a 32%-13% fav/unfav rating, but among those younger than 40, his fav/unfav is 13%-12%... And get this: Just 3% of all Americans believe both the Democratic and Republican parties are looking out for the middle class.

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