Biden's ATF nominee withdraws amid bipartisan pushback

President BidenJoe BidenHouse clears bill to provide veterans with cost-of-living adjustment On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit MORE on Thursday pulled the nomination of David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) after Republicans unified to oppose the pick and one independent senator expressed reservations.

Two sources familiar with the matter confirmed Thursday morning that the White House would withdraw Chipman's nomination. Biden, in a statement issued Thursday afternoon, blamed Republican opposition for the decision. But one source said it was Sen. Angus KingAngus KingRep. Tim Ryan becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise MORE's (I-Maine) opposition that ultimately doomed Chipman's chances of confirmation in the 50-50 Senate.

"[Chipman] 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," Biden said in a statement.

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Biden accused Republicans of using gun crime "as a political talking point instead of taking serious steps to address it." He cited the GOP's opposition to a nearly $2 trillion stimulus package passed earlier this year that included funding for local law enforcement.

Chipman, whom Biden nominated in April, faced opposition from Republican senators and pushback from some moderate Democrats concerned about his work with the gun control group Giffords. 

Chipman is an ex-ATF agent who has spent the last several years advising Giffords, the gun control advocacy group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) after she was shot in the head in 2011. Chipman was offered a position at the Department of Justice, one source said, but intends to turn it down.

Chipman called it an honor to be nominated for ATF director and vowed he would remain committed to ending the scourge of gun violence.

"I knew this confirmation process would be difficult, and while ultimately we weren’t successful, it remains essential that ATF is led by a confirmed Director who is accountable to the public and places no special interests before the safety of our children and our communities," Chipman said in a statement.

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Rocky US alliances as Biden heads to UN assembly Five things to watch as Biden heads to the UN Biden to get COVID-19 booster on camera once fully approved MORE told reporters in August that Biden “felt quite confident” in Chipman’s “qualifications and his ability to lead the agency at a time where it hasn’t been led for many years.”

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But Chipman's path to confirmation was unclear, as some Democrats remained on the fence about the pick. Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit Overnight Health Care — Presented by Indivior —Pfizer: COVID-19 vaccine safe for young kids MORE (D-W.Va.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Polls open in California as Newsom fights for job MORE (D-Mont.)had yet to say whether they would vote for Chipman, and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) had reportedly expressed concerns to the White House about the nomination.

Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE Jr., the son of the former president, urged supporters to call on their senators to oppose the Chipman nomination. And gun rights groups, including the NRA, had fiercely lobbied against the pick, arguing Chipman would infringe on gun owners' rights by pushing for restrictions on certain high-capacity firearms.

“Chipman was the wrong candidate for many reasons. From an administration that claims it wants to be unifying, it could not have picked a more polarizing nominee," Jason Ouimet, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley calls for federal prosecutor to probe botched FBI Nassar investigation Woman allegedly abused by Nassar after he was reported to FBI: 'I should not be here' Democrat rips Justice for not appearing at US gymnastics hearing MORE (Iowa), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the ATF confirmation process, welcomed the news of Chipman's impending withdrawal.

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

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

Biden described Chipman's confirmation as an integral part of his agenda to bring down gun violence in the wake of multiple mass shootings earlier this year. Biden hailed Chipman in April as “the right person, at this moment, for this important agency.”

Jordain Carney contributed to this report, which was updated at 1:51 p.m.