Biden pulls ATF director nomination of David Chipman

David Chipman did not appear to have 50 votes for confirmation

David Chipman, nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee on May 26, 2021. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
David Chipman, nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee on May 26, 2021. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
Posted September 9, 2021 at 11:59am

With the nomination of David Chipman expected to be withdrawn, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will continue to operate without a Senate-confirmed director, as it has since 2015.

President Joe Biden’s decision to pull back Chipman’s nomination came as it was clear that he could not secure the 50 votes needed to allow Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie and get Chipman through to confirmation.

“David Chipman spent 25 years in distinguished service to our country as an ATF agent. He’s a gun owner himself, and someone who has the backing of law enforcement groups. And, he’s spent most of last decade as a leading voice for commonsense gun violence prevention legislation that will save lives, ” Biden said in a statement. “He would have been an exemplary Director of the ATF and would have redoubled its efforts to crack down on illegal firearms traffickers and help keep our communities safe from gun violence. ”

A person familiar with the plan had previously confirmed the Chipman withdrawal, which had not yet formally been received by the Senate. Only B. Todd Jones, who served as director under President Barack Obama, has ever won Senate confirmation to the post. The post has been subject to confirmation since 2006.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, were the widely reported holdouts within the Democratic caucus. Democrat Jon Tester of Montana had also been undecided. Chipman worked for 25 years as a special agent at ATF, but he has more recently served as a senior policy advisor at Giffords, the advocacy group named after former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., which advocates for more stringent gun laws.

Gun safety advocates criticized the senators who were not in support of the president’s nominee.

“The people who are at fault for this moment are the at least 51 senators who refused to vote for or commit to vote for an exponentially qualified candidate. These Senators have let their constituents down,” Brady President Kris Brown said in a statement.

Senate Judiciary ranking member Charles E. Grassley cited questions about Chipman’s record in relation to personnel matters during his time at ATF, in addition to the more familiar GOP concerns about his advocacy of gun control.

“Mr. Chipman’s long record as a partisan, anti-Second Amendment activist raised plenty of concerns about how he’d administer federal firearms laws,” the Iowa Republican said in a statement. “But that wasn’t the only cause for concern.”

Judiciary Chair Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., criticized the gun industry for what he said was an effort to prevent anyone from being Senate-confirmed to lead ATF.

“David Chipman is the latest target of their concerted effort. In the name of the countless victims of gun violence in my state and across the nation, I encourage the Biden Administration to send another nominee to head ATF as soon as possible. We cannot be cowered by gun dealers who are flooding America with crime guns, ” Durbin, who is also the Senate majority whip, said in a statement.