Democratic senators from gun-friendly states sink Biden’s embattled ATF pick

David Chipman’s nomination to serve as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives had been languishing for months in the Senate, where Democrats knew he lacked the votes within their own party to win confirmation.

Finally, this past week, the Biden administration pulled the plug on Chipman. Now, the president will have to come up with a new nominee who can defy the odds and win Senate approval to head one of the most divisive agencies in the federal government.

President Joe Biden blamed Republicans for dooming Chipman’s approval, saying in a statement Thursday, “They’ve moved in lockstep to block David Chipman’s confirmation.”

Chipman is a former ATF agent and a vocal gun control advocate. He works for Giffords, led by former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was grievously injured in a 2011 mass shooting while holding a constituent event in Tucson, Arizona.

The group lobbies for stronger gun control laws, including expanded background checks and regulating access to certain high-capacity weapons and ammunition. Chipman supports banning weapons including the popular AR-15 rifle, among other gun regulations.

Republicans labeled Chipman as anti-Second Amendment, and they unanimously opposed his nomination.

But it was a group of Democratic senators from gun-friendly states that sealed Chipman’s fate, and they will decide whether Biden’s next pick makes the cut.

Senate Democrats control 50 seats and can clear any nominee with a simple majority vote enabled by Vice President Kamala Harris, who can break a tie.

But several Democrats from states with high gun ownership signaled to the White House they were uncomfortable with Chipman serving as the nation’s top weapons regulator.

Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona were undecided on Chipman. At the same time, Maine’s Angus King, an independent who votes with the Democrats, told the White House he was a likely “no.”

Biden must now come up with a replacement who can win over centrists in his own party while not triggering a backlash among the majority-liberal caucus and grassroots groups eager to install an ATF director who can help expand regulations curbing gun violence.

It won’t be easy.

For the most part, the bureau has been operating under acting directors since Congress changed the position into an executive branch appointment that requires Senate approval in 2006.

The Senate has confirmed only one ATF director, approving Barack Obama’s acting director, B. Todd Jones, in a 53-42 vote in 2013.

President Donald Trump was forced to withdraw his ATF nominee, former Fraternal Order of Police President Chuck Canterbury, after GOP senators refused to provide the votes to advance him out of committee. Republicans cited concerns that Canterbury’s support of the Second Amendment was weak.

Biden will have to choose carefully if he plans to send Congress a new nominee.

Gun control groups expressed frustration with the decision to pull Chipman, pointing to Biden’s campaign trail promise to take aggressive steps to reduce gun violence.

“David Chipman is a tested law enforcement expert with over two decades of experience at the ATF. He is eminently qualified to lead the agency,” Kris Brown, president of the gun control group Brady United, said in a statement. “It is hugely disappointing and unconscionable that 50 members of the U.S. Senate, as well as at least one senator who caucuses with the President’s party, would deny President Biden his choice to lead the ATF.”

Meanwhile, gun rights groups made defeating Chipman a top priority and touted their ability to rally gun owners to pressure senators into rejecting his nomination. They are poised to do it again if Biden picks a nominee they believe will encroach on gun ownership rights.

“This critical win is thanks to NRA members who flooded their senators’ offices with texts, emails, letters, and phone calls voicing their opposition to Chipman’s nomination,” NRA Institute for Legislative Action President Jason Ouimet said Thursday. “Because of their swift action and ongoing opposition over the past several months, the radical gun control advocate will not sit at the helm of the ATF.”

The president’s authority to appoint an ATF director unilaterally ended during the second term of George W. Bush's presidency when Congress added a provision to the 2006 Patriot Act requiring Senate approval for the position.

The first nominee to face the Senate was Mike Sullivan, who served in the Bush administration as acting director. However, a trio of Republican senators blocked Sullivan’s confirmation over complaints that Sullivan was not sympathetic enough to concerns the ATF had acted with hostility toward small gun dealers.

Sullivan told the Washington Examiner he believes Biden could nominate “a number of people” who could win Senate approval, pointing out that Jones was confirmed during the Obama administration with both Republican and Democratic votes.

“There is a clear path for confirmation,” Sullivan told the Washington Examiner. “Nominate an individual that understands and respects the breadth of the Second Amendment, acknowledges that the Second Amendment protects individual rights, and nominate someone that sees the firearm industry as an important partner and appreciates the firearm industry works hard to meet all of its regulatory responsibilities.”

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Tags: News, Congress, ATF, Gun Control, Gun Violence, David Chipman, Senate, Joe Biden, Regulation

Original Author: Susan Ferrechio

Original Location: Democratic senators from gun-friendly states sink Biden’s embattled ATF pick