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Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a supporter of Jones, said he deserves a fair hearing.
“The committee is reviewing everything; obviously we should give a fair hearing,” Klobuchar said. “I just know him as someone who has always cared about his job and has done a good job as acting director of ATF. All the problems at ATF happened before he got there and he has been fixing a lot of stuff.”
The bar is high for confirming an ATF chief: No nominee has made it through the process since the post was modified in 2006 to require Senate confirmation.
That has been the case due in large part to advocates representing gun owners and the tense relationship they have with the agency.
“The gun lobby hates this agency like the devil hates holy water, and they want to slow down anyone who’s nominated,” Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said at the first Judiciary Committee hearing of the year last month.
The agency has also been mired in scandal, including Fast and Furious, and has been a target of intense Republican scrutiny.
In Fast and Furious ATF agents allowed assault guns to “walk,” which meant ending surveillance on weapons suspected to be en route to Mexican drug cartels. The tactic, intended to allow agents to track criminal networks by finding the guns at crime scenes, was condemned after two guns that were part of the operation were found at the 2010 murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
Prior to Jones, Obama twice nominated career ATF Agent Andrew Traver in 2010 and 2011. Traver never got a hearing after Grassley sought more information about him and never received a response from the White House, according to Grassley’s office.
President George W. Bush tried to confirm Michael Sullivan, U.S. District Attorney for the District of Massachusetts in 2007. But Republicans, including Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and Sen. Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho, held up Sullivan’s nomination over what they believed was overly burdensome regulation of gun owners and dealers imposed by the agency.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has also received several letters on behalf of Jones, including one from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Throughout his career, Mr. Jones has demonstrated an unyielding commitment to protecting public safety,” the group said. “His years of experience as a U.S. Attorney have provided him the opportunity to work with law enforcement agencies and he has gained a unique understanding of the challenges and the complexities agencies face in combating firearms violence, gang crime, and other threats to our communities.”