President Trump’s pick to head the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is stuck in limbo nearly two months after a Senate committee postponed a vote to advance his nomination.
Chuck Canterbury, the head of the national Fraternal Order of Police, was supposed to be voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in September, but the vote was delayed because of a lack of Republican support.
The ATF has operated without a permanent director since 2015. As Mr. Canterbury’s nomination stalls, the agency faces an unprecedented crisis of staff shortages, an increased number of mass shootings and hundreds of agents retiring over the next few years.
At a disastrous confirmation hearing in July, Republican senators’ enthusiasm for Mr. Canterbury fizzled after he refused to disclose his opinions on the gun rights debate facing the country.
The Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled a vote to send the nomination to the full Senate in September. But that was abandoned and it is not clear if the vote will ever be held.
Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said he was unsure if there will be a vote on Mr. Canterbury.
“It’s problematic,” the South Carolina Republican told The Washington Times. “There is a lot of opposition.”
Mr. Graham did say he still supports Mr. Canterbury.
Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican on the committee, said Mr. Canterbury does not have his vote.
He urged the Trump administration to nominate “someone who supports the Second Amendment,” though Mr. Canterbury’s nomination has not been yanked by the president.
It’s an open question how long Mr. Trump will stick with his nominee. A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comments.
Senators aren’t the only ones who have expressed their frustration with Mr. Canterbury. Last month, Gun Owners of America, one of the most outspoken gun rights groups, urged its members to sign a petition opposing Mr. Canterbury’s nomination.
As head of the Fraternal Order of Police, Mr. Canterbury rankled some gun rights groups by pushing aggressive gun-control measures such as expanding background checks.
Mr. Canterbury spent his confirmation hearing dodging senators’ questions, exasperating lawmakers from both parties.
“Are you telling me you have no positions independent of the FOP relative to firearms and, if so, how are we, as a committee, to evaluate where you stand on questions of policy?” asked Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican.
Mr. Kennedy accused Mr. Canterbury of being “evasive” at the hearing, saying his vague answers have cost him his vote.
“You have been nominated to run ATF. I think every member of this panel, both my Democratic friends and Republican friends who have feelings about the Second Amendment, are entitled to know both morally and legally what you believe,” he said.