President Barack Obama predicted that gun control legislation will pass if Congress is willing to listen to Americans on the issue, noting "overwhelming" public support for tougher gun measures.
During an interview with NBC's "The Today Show" that aired Tuesday morning, Obama noted that it would be "unimaginable" for lawmakers to ignore support for gun control after last year's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"I think we've got a good chance of seeing it pass if members of Congress are listening to the American people," Obama said. "The notion that Congress would defy the overwhelming instinct of the American people after what we saw happen in Newtown, I think, is unimaginable."
Obama pointed specifically to the popularity of expanding background checks, which has received strong support in recent surveys. A ORC/CNN poll released last week found that 86 percent of Americans support strengthening checks on gun purchases in some way.
The Senate is set to consider a bipartisan compromise bill on background checks later this week. The measure, introduced by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), would expand existing checks to close loopholes on gun show purchases and online firearm sales, but would exempt "personal" transfers of guns between individuals. The bill faces a tough road to passage, with just 52 senators voicing support for the measure as of Tuesday morning. The legislation will likely require 60 votes to pass.
NBC's Savannah Guthrie asked Obama how he expected Democrats in Republican-leaning states to vote on the measures, which could prove politically difficult for some members.
"You didn't run on this in 2008 or 2012," Guthrie said. "Not after Tucson, not after Aurora."
"I think that all of us had to reflect on what we did or didn't do after Newtown," Obama replied. "If the question is, 'Is this potentially difficult politically because the gun lobby is paying attention and has shown no willingness to budge?' Then the answer is yes, that's a given. Now, if the question is what's the right thing to do and what the American people believe in overwhelmingly, if that's what's guiding members of Congress during the next couple of weeks, then this will pass."
During the "Today Show" interview, Obama also addressed his 2014 budget proposal, which he unveiled earlier this month. The president said his plan gave Republicans a "realistic compromise," and that the next move is theirs.
“It does not give Republicans everything they want. Frankly, it doesn't reflect everything that I would like to see,” he said. “What it does is it puts forward some of the ideas that Republicans had suggested around entitlement reform that I think are reasonable policy.”