White House pushes for swift confirmation of ATF nominee after Texas shooting

Nominee for ATF Director Steven Dettelbach answers questions during his Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.
Greg Nash
Nominee for ATF Director Steven Dettelbach answers questions during his Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.

The White House is pushing the Senate to quickly confirm President Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the wake of the Texas elementary school shooting.  

Biden on Wednesday urged the Senate to confirm Steve Dettelbach, a former federal prosecutor from Ohio who he nominated to lead ATF earlier this year, calling it a “modest step” the body could take to address gun violence in the wake of the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left at least 19 children and two teachers dead.  

“The Senate should confirm him without delay, without excuse. Send the nomination to my desk,” Biden said during an event marking the two-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. “It’s time for action.”  

Dettelbach sat for his first confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, a meeting that was shadowed by the school shooting that happened the day before.  

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre praised Dettelbach in a statement following the hearing and said it showed “why the Senate should move quickly to confirm him to lead” ATF.  

The White House views the ATF nominee as a way to make progress on Biden’s gun control agenda at a time when other legislative items, like bills to expand background checks, remain stalled.  

“As we saw with the tragic shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo — where ATF agents have played a key role in the investigations — and with daily gun violence plaguing too many of our communities, now is the time to provide ATF the leadership it needs to redouble its work to enforce our gun laws and make our communities safer,” she said.  

There has not been a confirmed nominee atop ATF for several years. Biden was forced to withdraw his first nominee, David Chipman, from consideration last fall after it became clear he lacked 50 votes in the Democrat-controlled Senate to get him confirmed.  

Dettelbach will need to secure support from all 50 Democrats if Republicans unanimously oppose his nomination. 

Dettelbach has won support from bipartisan mayors and law enforcement groups, and the White House is hopeful that ultimately his nomination will succeed.

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who did not support Chipman, told reporters earlier Wednesday that he was likely to support Dettelbach.  

It’s unclear how quickly the Senate will move on his nomination. The Judiciary panel needs to first vote to advance the ATF nominee so he can receive a floor vote.

Tags Angus King Angus King ATF David Chipman Joe Biden Joe Biden Karine Jean-Pierre Steve Dettelbach Texas school shooting

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