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Biden ATF pick likely to be left dangling over Senate recess

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The nomination of David Chipman, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, is on shaky ground as rural state Democratic senators voice their doubts about the gun control advocate.

It threatens to be one of only a handful of confirmation defeats for Biden during his first six months-plus in office. A majority of senators also refused to confirm Biden's choice for director of the Office of Management and Budget, liberal activist and former think tank president Neera Tanden.

The evenly split Senate Judiciary Committee in June deadlocked along party lines over Chipman’s nomination. That left the decision on bringing Chipman’s nomination to the floor for a vote to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.

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However, Schumer has made no indication Chipman’s nomination was scheduled this week before the lawmakers leave for recess for a month. Should Chipman’s nomination come to the 50-50 Senate floor, he would likely face opposition from every Republican senator, meaning every Democrat must support him or the nomination will fail.

As of now, at least three Democratic lawmakers from states with gun friendly laws are publicly undecided about the 25-year ATF veteran who later went on to become a key figure in national gun control circles, starting in 2012.

The nomination of Chipman riled up gun rights organizations and Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently demanded Biden withdraw his nominee over allegations from current and former ATF agents that Chipman made racially insensitive remarks about black agents in the department and had a reputation for bullying subordinates.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, spearheaded by Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, sent a letter to Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, and asked for another hearing to discuss these claims against Chipman.

Although Biden’s critics say he nominated a blatant partisan on firearms to the position, it is not the first time a nominee to the post has struggled to be confirmed. The job of ATF director is considered so politically polarizing, the Senate has only confirmed one appointee in the last 15 years since the chamber in 2006 made it a post that required confirmation. The rest served as acting directors.

The only ATF director confirmed by the Senate was Todd Jones. This happened in 2013 during the Obama administration. Jones left the post in 2015, leading Democrats to charge that Republicans are purposely keeping the position vacant.

Chipman reportedly has met with 17 lawmakers on Capitol Hill to convince wavering members that if confirmed, he will only enforce laws on the books. Attorney General Merrick Garland backed up Chipman by contacting these senators to discuss the importance Chipman would play in the administration’s strategy against gun violence.

Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, is among that handful of members still “reviewing” Chipman’s record. Tester, however, hinted to reporters last week that a full floor confirmation vote is still far off.

“I’m still reviewing it, and I’m not even sure it’s going to come up,” Tester told reporters on Capitol Hill last Tuesday.

Durbin, the Senate majority whip, confirmed that day Democrats do not have the votes necessary yet to confirm Chipman. The Illinois Democrat previously acknowledged that the fight to get Biden’s nominee approved would be a difficult one for his caucus, noting, “There are a lot of issues” ensnaring him.

Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats, ran on opposing the assault weapons ban. He presently refuses to tell reporters whether he will support Chipman’s nomination, but a powerful state sportsman’s group called for King to oppose Chipman after thanking fellow Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, for doing so earlier.

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Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, who helped author a failed expanded background check measure with Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in 2013, is close to Second Amendment activists in his state and invited Chipman to meet with West Virginia’s governor, Republican Jim Justice. Chipman also participated in a Zoom town hall hosted by Manchin that was virtually attended by residents of the state.

Justice’s office did not return a statement in response to an inquiry over how his meeting with Chipman went.

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Tags: News, Senate, ATF, Confirmations, Second Amendment, Gun Control

Original Author: Kerry Picket

Original Location: Biden ATF pick likely to be left dangling over Senate recess

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