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Democrats optimistic on 'broad' support for universal gun background checks

Hours before President Barack Obama's official swearing-in to a second term, top Democrats predicted a victory for the broadest component of the White House's push to change the nation's gun laws. 

During an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. Chuck Schumer, N.Y., called legislation to institute universal background checks for gun buyers "the sweet spot." 

"In terms of actually making us safer and having a good chance of passing, this is it," Schumer said on Sunday. 

"I think you're going to see [the very likelihood] in the next week or two a proposal that has broad support for universal background checks," he added. 

Schumer's confidence echoed the comments of White House senior adviser David Plouffe, who said on CNN Sunday that he's confident the president will have the votes in Congress to pass key parts of his gun control agenda because public opinion has shifted in the wake of the Newtown school shooting last month. 

"Newtown has changed the debate," Plouffe said. "Sadly, it took a tragedy like that, but you’re seeing a lot of people -- by the way Democrats and Republicans -- think differently about this issue since this tragedy."

"I think there's 60 votes in the Senate and 218 votes in the House if votes will come up for some of these gun safety measures like clips, like universal background checks, absolutely," he added. "There is a consensus in America on this, and I think we can get there here on Capitol Hill."

Obama unveiled a sweeping proposal last week that included the background check measure, limits on the capacity of ammunition clips, and a ban on assault weapons. Supporters of the plan point to overwhelming public support for the background check legislation; the assault weapons ban is far more divided along partisan lines. 

Freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, said that Obama has exploited the mass shooting in Newtown in order to pass a pre-existing legislative agenda that caters to his political base. 

"This is not designed to actually solve the problem of violent crime. This is designed to assuage liberal partisans" on the issue of gun control, he said on Meet the Press. 


Cruz questioned the need to place further restrictions on gun shows, where critics say it is too easy to buy a firearm. 

"There actually isn't the so-called 'gun show loophole.' That doesn't exist," he said. "Any licensed firearm dealer who sells at a gun show has to have a background check." 

Another Republican senator suggested Sunday that the gun legislation may not even come up for a vote in the United States Senate, where Democratic leader Harry Reid faces tough politics when it comes to swing-state Democrats who are up for re-election in 2014. 

"I would really welcome the opportunity to have a fair and open debate on that in the United States Senate,"  said Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming on CNN.

"But I don't think Senator Harry Reid even brings it to the Senate floor because he has six Democrats up for election in two years in states where the president received fewer than 42 percent of the votes."