Senate

GOP opposition threatens to sink Trump’s ATF pick

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President Trump’s pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is on life support amid opposition from Republican senators. 

Kenneth Charles “Chuck” Canterbury is getting pushback from multiple Republican senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which canceled a Thursday business meeting where his nomination was scheduled to get a vote. 

{mosads}Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) both told The Hill on Thursday that they would not support Canterbury if his nomination is brought up for a vote in the committee. 

“I think we can do better, no disrespect,” Kennedy said of why he was opposed to Trump’s pick. 

Hawley pointed to Canterbury’s stance on the Second Amendment, calling it “really, really concerning.” 

“I just think that his record on the Second Amendment is really, really concerning. … I asked him specifically about the rulemaking authority of the ATF and he didn’t seem familiar with that at all. So I think all of that’s really, really concerning,” Hawley said. 

Canterbury, who was previously president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, rankled senators during his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year by dodging their questions or giving vague answers when it came to his views on firearms. 

A spokesman for Sen. Mike Lee (Utah), a member of the committee, said the GOP senator supported the decision to delay a committee vote on Canterbury. 

“Sen. Lee has concerns about Canterbury’s Second Amendment views and is pleased the markup has been delayed,” said Conn Carroll.

Asked if he could support Canterbury, a spokesman for Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) noted that the senator “had expressed numerous concerns about his view of the Second Amendment.” 

Republicans hold a 12-10 majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Without help from Democrats Canterbury would not have the support to clear the panel. 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) demurred when asked by The Hill on Thursday about whether or not he was still planning to give Canterbury a vote. 

“We’re going to talk about that and see where the committee is on that, and I’ll let you know when we get back,” he said, referring to the Senate’s upcoming two-week recess. 

Asked if he had Republican senators expressing concerns about the nomination, he added “yeah, yeah.” 

A Senate GOP aide noted that it remained to be seen if Canterbury’s nomination would be withdrawn or delayed indefinitely, but that he didn’t currently have sufficient support to clear the committee. 

Spokespeople for the White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about if there had been any discussion on withdrawing the nomination. 

But Hawley suggested that it might not come up for a vote. 

“I don’t know that I’m going to have to make that decision, let’s put it that way,” he said. “But if we did vote on him I would be a no.” 

Jesse Byrnes contributed 

Tags ATF Ben Sasse Bureau of Alcohol Donald Trump Firearms and Explosives John Kennedy Josh Hawley Lindsey Graham Mike Lee Tobacco

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