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Grassley has emerged as a leading skeptic of Jones and has raised a host of concerns about him, including his managerial style and his role in “Operation Fast and Furious,” a botched ATF investigation that allowed thousands of guns to enter Mexico illegally. Two of those guns were later found at the murder scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona.
Grassley also has pressed for answers on Jones’ involvement in an alleged agreement between the Justice Department and the city of St. Paul, Minn., in which the city withdrew from a Supreme Court civil rights case in exchange for the federal government’s offer not to join a pair of housing-related lawsuits against the city. Grassley has called the agreement a “shady deal” that may have cost the Treasury $180 million.
The Obama administration sought to address GOP concerns about the St. Paul incident by making Jones available to the Senate Judiciary Committee and other congressional staffers for a private interview about the agreement. But while that interview has helped clear up Grassley’s concerns about that aspect of Jones’ record, it did not touch on any of the other GOP concerns about the nominee, and the committee still has not scheduled a confirmation hearing for him.
Timing, meanwhile, is increasingly becoming a concern for gun control advocates, who would like to see Jones confirmed as soon as possible.
The Judiciary Committee, which spent much of February and March reviewing the president’s gun agenda, is now immersed in an 844-page immigration bill that is likely to dominate the agenda for at least the next several weeks.
Jones’ confirmation also appears to have receded as a priority for the White House.
Obama has not publicly pushed for Jones’ confirmation since Feb. 4, according to a review of his speeches on gun violence, even as he has repeatedly prodded lawmakers to take up the other aspects of his agenda, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and a tightening of the background check system. Those proposals were defeated on the Senate floor last week, though Obama and Senate leaders have vowed to keep pressing for them.
“At this point, I don’t know where the president goes with this,” said Harry L. Wilson, a political science professor at Roanoke College in Virginia and the author of a book about the politics of gun control. “I think this policy window, contrary to what people are saying about pressing forward, is closed.”
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Office of Special Counsel is part of the Justice Department. It is an independent investigative agency.