Sen. Heitkamp flying back to Washington to cast decisive vote on ATF nominee

The Senate is waiting for Sen. Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampGun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA McConnell quashes Senate effort on guns Senators roll out bipartisan gun proposal MORE (D-N.D.) to cast the deciding vote on whether to end debate on President Obama’s nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The Senate started the cloture vote on Todd Jones’ nomination at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. The current vote count stands at 59-40, one vote short of the 60 votes needed to advance the nominee.

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Six Republicans have voted with Democrats to end debate. After more than 30 minutes of pushing from colleagues, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiKerry visits Arctic Circle to see climate impacts Senate panel clears EPA spending bill, blocking rules Momentum slows for major energy bill MORE (R-Alaska) switched her vote and joined GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA House Republicans pushing gun control bill The Trail 2016: Berning embers MORE (Maine), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteMcConnell quashes Senate effort on guns Republicans blast latest Gitmo transfer Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote MORE (N.H.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamGun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote Senate Republicans may defy NRA on guns MORE (S.C.), John McCainJohn McCainMarines reignite debate on women in combat Gun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA Report: Prominent neoconservative to fundraise for Clinton MORE (Ariz.) and Mark KirkMark KirkDuckworth settles retaliation lawsuit The Trail 2016: Berning embers Senate Dems link court fight to Congressional Baseball Game MORE (Ill.) in voting to advance Jones' nominations.

Heitkamp has missed all of the votes this week because she’s been back in her home state. A spokesperson for Heitkamp said the senator is on her way to Washington and would cast a “yes” vote.

“Sen. Heitkamp is currently on her way to Washington from North Dakota,” the spokesperson said. “If the vote is held open, she would like to be able to cast her vote.”

After cloture is invoked, the Senate is expected to proceed to a final confirmation vote on Jones' around 7 p.m.

Earlier this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee cleared Jones’ nomination on a party line 10-8 vote.

The bureau hasn’t had a leader for seven years. Democrats have complained that Republicans have opposed ATF directors because of opposition from the National Rifle Association.

Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyDozens of senators push EPA for higher ethanol mandate Civil liberties group mobilizes against surveillance amendment Brother may I? Congress must reform senseless drug regulation MORE (R-Iowa) said he wouldn’t support Jones’ nomination because he is accused of “retaliating against a whistle blower.”

“The Senate should not be voting on a nomination when there is an open investigation,” Grassley said ahead of the vote. “To be honest, we don’t know the full story, but there is an open investigation of serious accusations on retaliation against whistle blower activity. … These are serious charges.”

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