- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stalled in the SenateJudiciary Committee for nearly 11 months, the nomination of veteran ATF agent Andrew Traver to become the new permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has little chance of being scheduled for confirmation hearings anytime soon.

With ATF embroiled in a growing controversy about an undercover investigation known as “Fast and Furious” — in which hundreds of weapons were “walked” into Mexico — several elected officials, rank-and-file agents and others question whether the Obama administration wants to expose the operation to further public scrutiny.

Others, including conservative and pro-gun groups, have vigorously protested Mr. Traver’s ties to anti-gun organizations, including the liberal Joyce Foundation, and have called the head of ATF’s Chicago field office the “wrong choice” to lead an agency whose responsibilities include the oversight of those who sell and buy guns.

“Ten months is a long time,” said Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, who thinks the Obama administration is dragging its feet on the Traver nomination in part because of the still-unanswered questions about the Fast and Furious operation.

“If the administration wanted a confirmation hearing, there would have been a confirmation hearing,” Mr. Poe said. “It is pure speculation, but I don’t think the administration wants a gunbattle over this nomination. First, [Mr. Traver] comes across as almost opposed to the Second Amendment. Second, there is Fast and Furious. I would think the Senate would bring it up at the hearing.”

Andrew Traver's confirmation to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives appears to be languishing on the Senate's back burner. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Andrew Traver’s confirmation to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and ... more >

An aide to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the Vermont Democrat has not scheduled a hearing on the nomination because Republicans “have not yet told us that they have completed their review of the materials received related to the nomination.”

A spokeswoman for Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s ranking Republican, said the senator has had no discussions with panel Democrats or the White House about scheduling a hearing, adding that the Traver nomination “has never been brought forward for consideration by Sen. Leahy or the White House.”

“It takes 60 votes in the Senate to get a nominee confirmed, so it would do the White House a lot of good to reach out to both sides in the Senate, rather than just sending up contentious nominees,” Mr. Grassley said.

Grassley spokeswoman Beth Levine added that the White House had yet to hand over all the information Republicans requested about Mr. Traver in June when a question about his background came up.

“We have never heard back,” she said.

President Obama nominated Mr. Traver on Nov. 17, 2010, citing his efforts against street gangs and violence during his four years as special agent in charge of ATF’s Chicago field division. The president resubmitted the nomination in January when the new Congress came in.

‘Due diligence’

“The president nominated Andrew Traver to be head of the ATF, and the Judiciary Committee has said they are still conducting their due diligence,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said. “As you know, the ATF has been without a confirmed director for years — predating this administration — and our hope is that, given the important mission of the bureau, we will soon have Senate-confirmed leadership there.”

Agent Thomas Ahern, spokesman for Mr. Traver, said the Justice Department had requested that Mr. Traver not grant interviews until the confirmation process is completed.

ATF has not had a permanent director since 2006 when the Senate first got the power to confirm directors. The Senate has yet to confirm an ATF director, with several Republicans blocking Michael Sullivan, President George W. Bush’s nominee in 2008, because of questions on whether he was hostile to gun dealers. His nomination was subjected to a Senate hold placed by Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Michael Crapo of Idaho and by then-Sen. Larry E. Craig, also of Idaho.

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