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Can Biden Finally Get A Senate-Confirmed ATF Leader?

President Biden wants the Senate to do something it’s done only once in 16 years: confirm someone as the nation’s top gun regulator. It’s not going to be easy, Politico reports. After the White House yanked its initial pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in September, the administration and gun safety advocates are pushing for Senate approval of Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. Attorney. Time is not on Democrats’ side: With control of the upper chamber in play this fall, Dettelbach may be Biden’s best and final chance to have a Senate-confirmed ATF director during his presidency. The agency needs a head with Senate approval to have the best chance at implementing Biden’s agenda on guns. With little hope for bipartisan compromise on the issue in a 50-50 Senate, particularly as the midterm elections approach, Democrats are increasingly imploring the White House to take unilateral action on gun control on a smaller scale than Congress has envisioned in attempts at a legislative deal.

Several key Senate Democratic caucus members are noncommittal on Dettelbach, who supported an assault weapons ban and universal background checks during his failed bid for attorney general of Ohio in 2018. The Senate Judiciary Committee is reviewing Dettelbach’s nomination and has yet to schedule his confirmation hearing. Its chair, Majority Whip Dick Durbin, said he’s “ready to go as soon as they give me their thumbs-up.” The White House withdrew its initial nominee, David Chipman, a senior adviser at the anti-violence group Giffords, last fall after he faced resistance from Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and hurdles with other moderate Democrats. With legislation to strengthen background checks stalled in the Senate, confirming a permanent director to the agency could be the Biden administration’s last chance at defining his legacy on guns.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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