The troubled (and troubling) nomination of gun control activist David Chipman to head up the ATF may be coming to a head in the next couple of days, at least if a new report by the Michael Bloomberg-funded gun control website The Trace and USA Today is correct.
The new piece at USA Today reads like a last-ditch attempt to rally support for the nomination; providing ample space to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin to spin the many controversies around Chipman as just partisan tricks by Republicans and the “gun lobby,” for instance. Still, even with the pro-gun control slant to the report, it’s clear that Chipman’s supporters are getting desperate to push undecided senators like Maine’s Angus King into backing the nomination.
Chipman’s supporters launched a final full-court press on King with private meetings this week at the end of a bruising nomination, which featured millions spent in lobbying on TV, radio and the internet, alongside disinformation about the former agent and his family that turned bizarre and threatening.
Advocates are hoping for a floor vote before the Senate breaks for its August recess this weekend. All Republicans are expected to vote against the nominee, meaning Sen. Chuck Schumer could afford no defections if he is to eke out a tie that could be broken by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Note that advocates are the ones pushing for a floor vote this week, not necessarily Democratic senators themselves. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can bring Chipman’s nomination to the floor for a full vote any time he wants, but he hasn’t done so because the votes aren’t there… at least at the moment.
… White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president knew the Chipman nomination “wouldn’t be easy” citing the lack of a confirmed director for the last six years. “We’ve been eyes wide open into the challenge from the beginning,” she said Wednesday at the White House press briefing.
When asked about the opposition of King, who caucuses with Democrats, she instead pointed to the GOP: “We are disappointed by the fact that many Republicans are moving in lockstep to try to hold up his nomination and handcuff the chief federal law enforcement agency tasked with fighting gun crimes.”
My colleague Tom Knighton covered Psaki’s comments a little earlier, so I won’t dwell on them here other than to point out that Biden’s biggest problem right now aren’t the fifty Republican senators who are opposed to Chipman, but the three Democrats who’ve yet to climb aboard the Chipman bandwagon (or should that be ban-wagon?).
Gun control advocates said this week that focus shifted to King despite unknown votes by other moderate Democrats including Sen. Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester. Two leading gun violence prevention advocates met with King by phone Wednesday morning.
Why exactly are gun control activists honing in on King despite the fact that Tester and Manchin remain non-committal, at least publicly? They may feel a little better about where Manchin and Tester will ultimately come down, or they may have simply done all that they can do to influence their votes. Chipman has already met with Manchin, who also introduced the nominee to West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and even held a Zoom call with Chipman focused on 2A issues. Tester’s office, meanwhile said in a statement on Wednesday that the Montana senator, “will continue to review David Chipman’s record and testimony to ensure he would support our brave law enforcement officers and respect Montanans’ Second Amendment rights.”
I’ve got bad news for Tester. There’s no way that a review of Chipman’s record and testimony will make anyone feel better about Biden’s ATF nominee respecting the Second Amendment rights of Montanans. Chipman is a zealot who’s faith in gun control is so absolute that he believes that the murders of school children can be given some deeper meaning as long as their deaths lead to additional restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. Placed in a position of rule-making authority at ATF, Chipman would weaponize the agency against the firearms industry and gun owners alike, which is one of the reasons why several former agents have publicly stated that Chipman’s the wrong man for the job.
Will we see a vote in the Senate this week? Only if Tester, Manchin, and King fall in line behind the rest of the Democratic caucus. If, on the other hand, at least one of the three senators remain undecided, Chipman’s nomination may truly be toast, and the Biden administration and its gun control allies are going to have to get to work on a Plan B.