David Chipman’s chances of becoming the next director of the ATF diminished this week.
We reported on Tuesday that several Democratic senators remain on the fence about his nomination. Several other outlets confirmed as much. It seems more moderate members like Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), Angus King (I., Maine), and Jon Tester (D., Mont.) remain undecided.
Their public fence-sitting turned out to be more than just posturing, since Chipman didn’t get a vote this week. That’s important because Chipman passed the hurdle of the Senate Judiciary Committee just before Congress went to recess. This was the first week back, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) could have put him to a full vote, but he didn’t.
That’s almost certainly because he doesn’t think he has the votes—at least, not yet.
And the math got permanently harder this week as well. Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey was one of the few Republicans Hill watchers believed could have voted for Chipman. But the retiring senator, who famously partnered with Manchin to push for universal background check legislation in 2013, announced Thursday that he would vote against Chipman.
That means Democrats will likely have to go it alone to get Biden’s ATF pick confirmed.
With Chipman’s long history of support for gun bans many Democratic senators don’t support and his status as a paid gun-control activist, the hill may be too steep to climb. The longer his nomination drags out, the less likely it becomes.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Chipman is done yet. He’s reportedly having one-on-one meetings with several skeptical Democrats to try and win them over. And Maggie Hassan (D., N.H) went on record supporting him this week despite her upcoming re-election.
Schumer and Biden don’t appear poised to yank his nomination and seem to prefer giving the wobbly-kneed Democrats time to come around. Or, perhaps, give gun-control advocates time to push them in the desired direction.
The fight is far from over but, barring a major event that boosts the urgency to appoint a new ATF director, the longer Chipman sits, the worse off he is.