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US Vice President Joe Biden predicted Wednesday that the White House would "eventually" secure expanded background checks for gun buyers, even as a Senate bill on the issue looked set to fail.
President Barack Obama's spokesman Jay Carney meanwhile lashed out angrily at complaints by Republican Senator Rand Paul that the White House was using families who lost kids in the Newtown school massacre as "props."
A clutch of votes was expected in the Senate later on Wednesday, including on the push to expand background checks for gun purchases that has become Obama's main focus in reforming gun laws after last year's school killings.
But there are increasing signs that the effort, opposed by most Republicans, the powerful gun lobby and some Democrats in conservative or rural states will not get the 60 votes needed for passage.
"This is going to be a close vote," Biden said on a Google Plus "hangout" event with mayors, which was dedicated to gun reform.
"I can assure you one thing -- we are going to get this eventually. If we don't get it today we are going to get it eventually," Biden said.
Carney meanwhile refused to admit defeat in the drive for enhanced background checks.
"This isn't over. I'm not going to give a postmortem," said Carney.
"There is no question that the path to 60 in this case is difficult, but it is not unachievable.
"If you are opposed to this legislation, you should explain why you are against something that 90 percent of the people are for, that vast majorities of the people in your state support."
White House sources said the president had been calling wavering senators to push for support for the background checks bill in the hours before the vote and Carney said everyone in the White House from Obama on down was involved.
Carney also flashed genuine anger when he was asked about a reported comment from Paul that Obama had used families of those killed in the Newtown school shooting, who have been lobbying for reforms on Capitol Hill, as props.
"I don't know if Senator Paul met with the Newtown families. The Newtown families aren't here for the president.
"They're here because their children were murdered. They're here asking for the Senate to do something that is common sense."