President Biden on Thursday pulled the plug on his nomination of David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Mr. Chipman‘s nomination had been stuck in limbo for months after lawmakers of both parties raised questions over his ties to the gun control advocacy group Giffords, which was founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a mass shooting in 2011.
The president said Mr. Chipman would have made an exemplary ATF director and blamed Republicans for sinking the nomination.
“Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress have made clear that they intend to use gun crime as a political talking point instead of taking serious steps to address it. That’s why they’ve moved in lockstep to block David Chipman‘s confirmation, and it’s why they side with gun manufacturers over the overwhelming majority of the American people in opposing common-sense measures like universal background checks,” Mr. Biden said in a statement.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration is in talks with Mr. Chipman about another role within the government.
Mr. Chipman could have won confirmation if all the Senate Democrats had backed his nomination, but several of the chambers’ more moderate Democrats also raised questions about his positions.
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, along with Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, would not commit to supporting Mr. Chipman.
Administration officials and Democratic leaders had opened conversations with the lawmakers but apparently could not make headway.
“We’re working on it,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said last month when asked if Mr. Chipman had the votes for confirmation.
Republican opposition to Mr. Chipman was fierce.
They were intensely critical of his work with Giffords, saying he advocated gun-control policies that were too extreme. They said it disqualified him to run the ATF, which is tasked with enforcing federal gun laws.
Scuttling the nomination was the right call, said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
“Mr. Chipman‘s long record as a partisan, anti-Second Amendment activist raised plenty of concerns about how he‘d administer federal firearms laws,” Mr. Grassley said in a statement.
“The Senate has spent quite enough time flirting with this profoundly misguided nomination,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said in a floor speech before Mr. Biden withdrew his nominee. “There is no way this nominee is the best the Biden administration can do.”
Mr. Chipman‘s nomination was hailed by gun control advocates, but Second Amendment groups said he has advocated for extreme positions on firearms, including banning semiautomatic firearms and magazines.
The National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, and the National Association for Gun Rights had opposed his nomination.
As a result of the opposition, Mr. Chipman‘s nomination deadlocked in the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee in June. The administration still pushed for swift confirmation.
Attorney General Merrick Garland visited the ATF headquarters in July and used the visit to advocate for the nominee’s confirmation, saying Mr. Chipman would crack down on gun violence and firearms trafficking.
The ATF hasn’t had a confirmed director in six years. Since 2006, when Congress made the position a Senate-approved post, it has had only one confirmed director.
Mr. Chipman is the second pick to lead the ATF to be withdrawn in as many years.
Former President Donald Trump last year pulled his nomination of Chuck Canterbury after a disastrous confirmation hearing before the GOP-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.
Mr. Canterbury, the former national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, rankled senators with evasive answers during his 2019 confirmation hearing. The nomination languished for a year before Mr. Trump withdrew the nominee amid dwindling support from Republicans.