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Senate background check compromise in peril as GOP opposition grows

Prospects for Senate gun legislation dimmed early this week as a number of Republicans announced that they wouldn't support a compromise to expand background checks to gun show and Internet sales. Now, the architects of that compromise are offering to retool it in order to attract new support from rural state senators.

Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., were considering tweaking their bipartisan compromise so that people who live in rural areas - far away from places that can easily perform background checks with the current federal system - would be exempt from new background check requirements.

The changes could appeal senators like Mark Begich, Democrat of Alaska -- and possibly his home state Republican colleague, Lisa Murkowski, Senate aides said.

During a meeting Tuesday afternoon on Capitol Hill with victims of the 2011 shooting in Tucson, Vice President Joe Biden told victims that they were two votes shy of the 60 votes needed to advance the Manchin-Toomey deal.

Sen. Joe Manchin explains what his proposed background check legislation "will do" and "will not do" to lawful gun ownership.

The tragic events in Boston have shifted attention away from the Senate gun debate. A vote on the expanded background check amendment has been pushed back to at least Thursday -- and possibly until next week. The delay also could give Manchin and Toomey more time to court votes for their compromise measure.

Senate aides said Tuesday that they were still trying to work out how the upper chamber’s rules might accommodate that. Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday morning on the Senate floor that he had yet to reach an agreement with Republicans that would allow voting to begin on the gun bill.

A vote on the expanded background check amendment has been pushed back to at least Thursday -- and possibly until next week. That could give Manchin and Toomey more time to shore up support for their compromise.

A series of Republican senators on Monday said that they would not support the Manchin-Toomey compromise -- including Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a personal friend of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

This development has left Democrats scrambling to find the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster on the expanded background check amendment. According to an NBC News analysis of gun bill votes, Senate leaders still don't have the votes they need to attach the amendment -- limiting the chances that the upper chamber will pass meaningful new gun laws.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was on Capitol Hill lobbying lawmakers to pass a background check bill. She planned to appear at an afternoon event dedicating a room in the Capitol to Gabe Zimmerman, one of her aides on the Hill, who was killed in the Tucson shooting where she was wounded.

NBC’s Mike Viqueira and Frank Thorp contributed to this report.

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