Biden’s pick for ATF chief struggles to nail down support from all Democrats

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The Washington Post

The White House and Senate Democrats are struggling to secure support in their own ranks to install David Chipman as head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a position central to President Biden’s crime-fighting strategy but whose confirmation is getting snarled in gun politics.

No Republicans are expected to vote for Chipman in the evenly split Senate, meaning Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) needs all 50 Democrats to back the nominee for a position that has been enmeshed in controversy since it became subject to Senate confirmation 15 years ago.

A month has passed since Chipman’s nomination deadlocked in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a handful of Democratic senators from states friendly to gun rights have declined so far to support him, despite his nomination by a president from their party. One of the undecided Democrats raised the prospect Tuesday that Chipman’s nomination could be withdrawn.

The White House emphasized that it is fully supportive of Chipman, who served in ATF’s ranks for more than two decades before joining a gun-control advocacy group led by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). Biden selected him in April, three months after taking office — a notably early nomination for an ATF director.

“Not only is he a veteran of the ATF, but he’s somebody who’s been a supporter of smart ­gun-reform measures that could save lives of people across the country,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. “The president felt quite confident in his qualifications and his ability to lead the agency at a time where it hasn’t been led for many years.”

The last Senate-confirmed ATF director left his post in 2015, and the sensitivity of the position has prevented a permanent leader from being approved since then.

Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland visited ATF headquarters and urged the swift confirmation of Chipman, saying he was slated to play a leading role in the administration’s fight against gun violence and firearms trafficking.

By Seung Min Kim and Paul Kane

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