POLITICS
04/18/2013 09:04 pm ET Updated Apr 19, 2013

John McCain Defends Obama's Emotional Speech After Gun Vote

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Thursday defended President Barack Obama's emotionally charged speech decrying the Senate's failure to pass a bipartisan compromise on background checks the previous day.

Obama drew criticism from Republicans after he declared Wednesday a "shameful" day in Washington and accused the senators who voted against the Toomey-Manchin amendment of caving in to the gun lobby and its allies. The president also said the National Rifle Association had "willfully lied" about the legislation, which sought to expand background checks for firearms purchases.

In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, McCain expressed sympathy for Obama, who had been visibly shaken by December's elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and said he felt compelled to act.

"I'm very familiar with the issue, but I understand how the president felt very strongly," McCain said. "He was in Newtown. He feels the suffering of the families, and I can certainly understand, given his point of view, why the president got somewhat emotional."

McCain wouldn't comment on Obama's suggestion that pro-gun groups had lied, saying he didn't pay much attention to what they said.

The Arizona senator, who has enjoyed a favorable rating among gun groups throughout his career, was one of just six Republicans who voted for the background check measure. He said he didn't know why the majority of his party voted to kill it.

"I don't know, Jake. You'll have to ask them. I’ve heard various statements about their concerns about the bill, but I think you'll have to have them on to tell you that," McCain said, adding that he didn't feel any intense pressure to vote against the compromise measure.

"Honestly, I don't feel much pressure anymore," McCain said. "I just try to do what I think is right and, unfortunately, it's not always right."

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