Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Vote On Biden ATF Pick Nears

The Senate is poised to confirm President Biden’s pick to Head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), after it had to pull its last nominee before the latest string of deadly mass shootings.

Confirming Steve Dettelbach, would be a victory for Biden, who has promised to be tough on guns but has waited on the sidelines as a bipartisan group of Senators nails down a package on Gun Violence prevention that falls far short of Democratic goals.

“The confirmation of Dettelbach will be a massive step forward on gun safety,” Nico Bocour, Government Affairs Director of the Gun control group Giffords. “However, this is an issue where 40,000 people are dying from gun violence every year, and there is so much more to be done. We applaud the president for this achievement, but there is still so much more that his administration can do.”

Senate Negotiators finalized a Bipartisan Gun safety bill on Tuesday afternoon, which gives Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) a good chance of scheduling a Vote before the July 4th recess. The White House has said Officials hold regular conversations with Lawmakers about the talks, but that it has left it up to Capitol Hill to come to an agreement.

Zeenat Yahya, Director of Policy, at March for Our Lives, said that Dettelbach’s confirmation would be a victory for Biden but still only one piece of the puzzle in tackling Gun violence. “What advocates have been asking of the president is a comprehensive plan to tackle gun violence and for him to lead with it as one of his chief priorities. The first ATF director in seven years is great, but it’s little comfort given the scale of the crisis,” Yahya said. “This Senate bill needs to pass, where is the president’s forceful leadership on that?”

Dettelbach has the Votes to be confirmed, including from Two moderate Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin (WV) and Jon Tester (MT). His nomination was advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, along party lines, but in the full Senate, the nominee cleared a key procedural hurdle with Republican support from Sens. Susan Collins (ME) and Rob Portman (OH).

The Confirmation of an ATF Director is a long-awaited victory for Gun violence prevention groups. The Senate has confirmed only One ATF nominee, in 2013, since the position required confirmation from the Chamber.

“President Biden has made confirmation of a permanent director of ATF a priority and his confirmation is a victory for the president and a huge achievement given that we haven’t had a confirmed ATF director since 2006,” said Bocour, of Giffords.

Biden had originally nominated David Chipman, a former ATF Agent, to run the Bureau, but he pulled the Nomination in September, after Chipman did Not receive enough support in the Senate. Republicans united to oppose Chipman, who had advised Giffords, and he ultimately did Not receive support from enough Democrats, with Sen. Angus King (I-ME) also expressing concerns.

The White House drew criticism from outside groups during Chipman’s Nomination process for not pushing hard enough to rally support among Democrats to get him confirmed.

This time around, the White House has made a point Not to disclose their outreach to specific Lawmakers. Instead, they’ve highlighted endorsements from various groups who have backed Dettelbach’s nomination.

The White House has touted endorsements from: the National Sheriff’s Association; the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association; the International Association of Chiefs of Police; the Women in Federal Law Enforcement Foundation; a group of former ATF Directors, and more than 100 Mayors from both Parties.

Dettelbach was tapped for the role in April. The 57-year-old served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio from 2009 to 2016, and previously served in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. For the last few years, he’s worked at the Law firm BakerHostetler.

Dettelbach has drawn skepticism from most Republican Senators. At a hearing last month, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) raised concerns about him calling for a Ban on Assault Weapons during a 2018 Campaign for Ohio Attorney General. And Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) pressed the Nominee on his Prosecution record on Gun cases while serving as a U.S. Attorney.

The White House has repeatedly cited filling the ATF vacancy as a key step to curbing Gun Violence, in the wake of Mass Shootings in Colorado, Georgia, New York, Texas, and elsewhere, since Biden took Office, arguing that having a confirmed Leader would help enforce existing Laws and improve the work of New Task Forces focused on Trafficking.

Biden is limited in what he can do on Guns from the Executive Office, but some Advocates will still be looking for more from him once Dettelbach is confirmed. Yahya, of March for Our Lives, said that having Dettelbach in the Top ATF post doesn’t immediately mean that further action will be coming out of the Administration to curb Gun violence. “Confirmation does not mean action. We expect Dettelbach to take forceful action against manufacturers, advertisers and bad actors to cut off the pipeline of gun violence at its source, but we’re waiting to see if he moves quickly on that,” she said.

She added that Biden also personally needs to step up his work on Gun violence prevention, expressing disappointment about the President’s reaction to the Elementary School Shooting in Uvalde, Texas, last month.

“In our view, the president has disappointed us since Uvalde. As activists, we barely heard from the White House in the week since the shooting, and the president made one prime-time speech and seemed to call it a day,” she said. “The president has been a friend to us, and we deeply appreciate his kind words of support. But we need a leader who will fight to save our lives because children are being killed.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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