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Can Dettelbach Attract Gun Lobby, Senate Centrists to Head ATF?

Senate Democrats are preparing for a fight over Steve Dettelbach’s nomination to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). President Biden tapped Dettelbach this week, stepping into a battle over gun control months before the midterms, with Republicans eager to paint both Biden and Democratic candidates as “soft on crime.” The nomination sets the stage for election-year politics to combine with a high-profile confirmation process for a post that has been politically tricky after the last Senate-confirmed ATF director stepped down in 2015, reports The Hill. Sen. Dick Durbin (IL), the No. 2 Senate Democrat and Judiciary Committee chairman, praised Dettelbach as “highly respected” and “well equipped to lead” ATF, yet said "the problem is the same one that has foiled ATF confirmations since 2015: the gun lobby.”

Dettelbach previously served as a U.S. Attorney for more than six years after being selected in 2009 by President Obama. He is currently co-leader of white-collar investigations at national law firm BakerHostetler. Several senators — including Joe Manchin (D-WVA), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Angus King (I-ME) — remained on the fence over the previous nominee, David Chipman, who faced fierce opposition from gun groups.

Those same senators will be votes to watch as the Senate takes up Dettelbach’s nomination. Supporters hope Dettelbach will unite Democrats, and potentially pick up GOP support, after he was unanimously confirmed to his U.S. Attorney post. "He has the support of law enforcement and former federal prosecutors from both parties — including appointees of both President Trump and President Bush,” said White House spokesperson Michael Gwin.


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