Top explosives group endorses Dettelbach to head ATF

Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite
Steven Dettelbach, President Joe Biden’s pick to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, arrives at the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 25, 2022, the morning after the killing of at least 19 children by a gunman at a Texas elementary school.

The Institute of Makers of Explosives endorsed Steve Dettelbach to be director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in a letter exclusively obtained by The Hill.

The institute argued Dettelbach’s experience in the private and public sectors “would make him a fair and effective Director” in a letter on Wednesday to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the top Republican on the panel.

“As you know, the ATF Director role has been vacant since 2015, a period that has seen significant change to the regulated community’s operating environment. Through practical regulation and industry’s dedication to material stewardship, we have achieved an exemplary track record of explosives security,” the group’s president J. Clark Mica wrote.

“To continue this positive working relationship and to be able to make important business decisions, we must have leadership at the ATF. We trust that, if confirmed, Mr. Dettelbach will be a strong partner in our united pursuit of commercial explosives security,” he added.

The trade organization represents some of the largest explosives companies, including Orica USA, Detotec North America, Senex Explosives, and Baker Hughes.

Dettelbach is a former U.S. attorney who was nominated for that role by a Harvard Law classmate, former President Obama, in 2009.

The Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked 11 to 11 on Thursday morning to advance his nomination, which sets up a Senate floor vote later Thursday on a motion to discharge Dettelbach out of committee. A final confirmation vote expected next week.

Dettelbach has the votes to win confirmation after two moderate Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), said last week they would support him.

President Biden pulled the nomination of David Chipman to run ATF in September after he did not receive enough support in the Senate. Chipman was an ex-ATF agent who had advised the gun control group Giffords and Republicans unified to oppose him.

The Senate has confirmed only one ATF nominee, in 2013, since the position required confirmation from the chamber.

Tags ATF Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Charles Grassley Dick Durbin
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