Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., may not have the votes to pass a gun control bill that is already far weaker than President Obama wanted, but he is plowing ahead anyway today, hoping the addition of even more loopholes will convince reticent red state Democrats and wavering Republicans to switch sides. “Am I saying it’s all over with, done, we got the votes?” Reid told a scrum of reporters yesterday, “No. But we certainly feel we have the wind at our back.”

Other Democrats seemed less optimistic. “We didn’t think it would be this difficult,” Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., told McClatchy. “We’re not there today,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., added. “We’re working hard to try to get people to ‘yes’ … Manchin-Toomey is not set in stone.”

After an agreement between Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., last night, votes on the gun bill are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. this afternoon. Senators will vote on eight amendments, four from each side, and a vote on final passage is not expected till tomorrow at the earliest.

Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., have been working with rural state senators to craft new loopholes in their bill that would exempt licensed gun sellers who do not live within in convenient driving distance of a licensed gun dealer from having to comply with the bills new background check requirements. But even this may not be enough. “That impacts Alaska, but I think we’d still have problems,” Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, told The Hill. “It’s not going to seal the deal.”

Begich is working with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on their own bipartisan amendment that would increase the number of mental-health records shared with the national background-check system, but otherwise not expand the system. A vote on that amendment could give red state Democrats and fence-sitting Republicans the cover they need to vote against the more stringent Manchin-Toomey proposal.

Last night, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., became just the latest Republican senator to officially announce he could not support the Toomey-Manchin proposal. “I believe that this legislation could lead to the creation of a national gun registry and puts additional burdens on law-abiding citizens,” he said in statement.

With Heller a firm ‘no’, it now appears that Republicans have the 41 votes necessary to block the bill. Reid better hope that wind at his back picks up steam before 4 p.m. today.

From The Washington Examiner
Essential lessons from the Boston Marathon bombing
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Joel Gehrke: Senate Democrats delete Thatcher’s defiance of terrorism from statement in her honor
Tim Carney: Obama’s banker-fundraiser now an export-subsidy rainmaker
Phil Klein: Security theater and Boston
Conn Carroll: The worthless ‘triggers’ in the Gang of Ocho’s immigration bill

In Other News
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Roll Call, Wicker Targeted With Ricin Mailing: Sen. Roger Wicker has been sent an envelope containing a substance that tested positive for ricin.
The Washington Post, Economy hits spring swoon: For the third year in a row, the nation’s economic recovery seems to be petering out just as temperatures start to go up. Hiring has dropped off. Shoppers are putting away their wallets. Government spending cuts are looming. That has fueled predictions of an abrupt slowdown over the next few months.
The Washington Post, Facebook flexes political muscle on immigration bill: Behind the scenes on Capitol Hill, Facebook lobbyists are pressing to insert a few new words helpful to Facebook’s business interests into the Senate’s immigration proposal.
Associated Press, Mark Sanford Trespassed At Jenny Sanford’s Home: Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford must appear in court two days after running for a vacant congressional seat to answer a complaint that he trespassed at his ex-wife’s home.
Reuters, Climate scientists struggle to explain warming slowdown: Scientists are struggling to explain a slowdown in climate change that has exposed gaps in their understanding and defies a rise in global greenhouse gas emissions.

Lefty Playbook
David Sirota hopes that the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.
Mike Konczal challenges an economic study purporting to show that countries with higher debt have slower economic growth.
Benjy Sarlin notes that Rubio’s immigration bill doesn’t actually require any any real border security before illegal immigrants get citizenship.

Righty Playbook
Anthony Randazzo reports that Obama’s stimulus failed to create any lasting employment.
Mark Krikorian explains how the Gang of Ocho immigration bill waters down existing border security.
David Addington explains how the Toomey-Manchin bill creates a trap for law-abiding gun owners.
Fred Bauer explains how the Gang of Ocho immigration bill will create more amnesties.
Walter Russell Mead on The GOP and the Bush Legacy.