A lot has happened with President Joe Biden’s ATF director nomination these last two weeks.
His pick, David Chipman, faced a torrent of new negative stories. First, The Reload published a report corroborating the existence of allegations he made racist remarks while at the agency. Then, a group of retired agents came out against his nomination over concerns about his temperament and gun-control advocacy. And another report found he did not disclose an appearance on Chinese state media to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
His confirmation is still in the committee because Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has yet to call him to the floor for a full vote.
After his confirmation hearing all the way back in May, I tried to answer the question of whether he’s likely to get 50 votes. At the time, I said the odds were likely in his favor. After all, Democrats just need to get their own Senators in line to vote for him.
But, as time dragged on and he remained in limbo, I said the odds were growing longer. In D.C., bills or confirmations that linger tend to atrophy and die.
Compare Chipman’s path to another controversial nominee: Tracy Stone-Manning. Like Chipman, The nominee to head the Bureau of Land Management is opposed by every Republican Senator. Unlike him, though, she got all 50 Democrats to vote to advance her nomination. She’s likely to be confirmed on Monday despite having her confirmation hearing after Chipman and facing equally intense opposition.
Chipman’s chances have only continued to wither since then. The influx of new questions about his character raised by former colleagues has not helped. His refusal or inability to respond probably isn’t helping things either.
And we’re starting to see signs the end may be near.
USA Today reported on Wednesday that gun-control advocates were making a new push to convince holdouts, including Senators Angus King (I., Maine), Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), and Jon Tester (D., Mont.), to come around on Chipman. They reportedly wanted a vote to be held before the Senate went into recess early next week.
But by Thursday, Durbin shot down that idea, and hopes seemed to have wained. Then gun-control advocates began airing their frustrations in public.
“The White House has really dropped the ball here and if Chipman is not confirmed that will be a significant letdown to survivors of gun violence across the country — and will have the effect of undermining their effort to reduce gun homicides,” Igor Volsky, executive director of Guns Down America, told Politico. “Biden told us during the campaign trail that this is a priority and the administration insists that he is in charge of driving this issue. He needs to step on the accelerator.”
Suffice to say, public recriminations likely mean this is over. The gun-control groups would not be out attacking Biden if they thought there was any real chance Chipman would be confirmed. It sounds like the Senate Democrats and the White House are now at odds with the gun-control groups over whether they can actually get him through.
Of course, it’s never really over until it’s over. Things look terrible for him, but Chipman’s nomination hasn’t actually been withdrawn yet. And, as I said back in May, things can change on a dime in Washington.