Moderate Senate MPs still undecided on Biden’s choice for ATF, nomination at risk

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Some of the leading moderate Democratic senators needed to confirm President Biden’s choice to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, David Chipman, are still unsure whether they will vote for the controversial candidate who has the used to working with high-profile guns. control groups.

Chipman, who also has a history of non-diplomatic commentary on guns, gun owners, and how gun laws are enforced, is fiercely opposed by most Republicans.

Even Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of the Senate Republicans who has been willing to vote for many presidential candidates, said she would vote against the “unusually confrontational” Chipman. She said it’s because he is “a vocal critic of the gun industry and has made statements that demean law-abiding gun owners.”

That means there’s a good chance Chipman’s nomination will come down to a handful of Democrats, like Senator John Tester of Montana.

In this September 25, 2019 file photo, former Giffords Law Center senior policy adviser David Chipman speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on assault weapons on Capitol Hill in Washington .  Chipman is appointed to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.  (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik, file)
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In this September 25, 2019 file photo, former Giffords Law Center senior policy adviser David Chipman speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on assault weapons on Capitol Hill in Washington . Chipman is appointed to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik, file)
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“As a proud gun owner, Senator Tester believes the ATF needs a strong leader to support the agency’s law enforcement mission,” said Sarah Feldman, director of communications from Tester to Fox News. “Senator Tester will continue to review David Chipman’s case and testimony to ensure he supports our courageous law enforcement officers and respects the Montanan’s Second Amendment rights.”

Several other moderate Democrats in the Red or Purple states have not taken a public stance on the nomination and have not responded to Fox News requests for their stance on Chipman. This group includes Sens. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Maggie Hassan, DN.H., and Angus King, I-Maine.

Manchin was asked about Chipman’s appointment last month and admitted that “there was a lot of controversy,” according to Politico. “I am really undecided,” he said.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who represents the other major Republican vote after Collins, did not announce a position on Chipman’s nomination. His support, or a vote from any other Republican, would be a big boost to Chipman’s chances. But even if Murkowski votes against him, at least one Democrat would need it to block Chipman’s confirmation. Otherwise, Vice President Harris can break the tie in the Senate 50-50.

Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont., In the U.S. Capitol House Chamber in Washington, February 4, 2020. The tester's office told Fox News it is still evaluating candidate Biden ATF's record , David Chipman.

Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont., In the U.S. Capitol House Chamber in Washington, February 4, 2020. The tester’s office told Fox News it is still evaluating candidate Biden ATF’s record , David Chipman.
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Several elements of Chipman’s story lead Republicans to fervently oppose him and moderates to think hard about their decision. Among them are his past support for very strict AR-15 regulations, his work for major gun control organizations Giffords and Everytown, and his past loaded comments on gun owners and enforcement. fire arms.

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“I have had to practice many times to master the use of a firearm and most new buyers who have gone to their gun store and bought a firearm have no training.” , Chipman told Cheddar News last year of an increase in gun purchases. at the start of the pandemic.

“In their minds, they might be confident. They might think they’re up to anything. But unfortunately, they look more like Tiger King and they put themselves and their families at risk,” Chipman added. “What I would suggest is for people who have been owners of weapons for the first time… I would secure this locked and unloaded weapon, and hide it behind the cans of tuna and beef jerky that you have stored in it. cabinet and only take it out if the zombies start to appear. ”

And in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything,” Chipman appeared to argue for the arrest of people before they commit crimes – something he backed down when pressed about it during his hearing before. the Senate Judiciary Commission.

“While at the ATF, I conducted studies involving people who failed background checks to determine how many crimes went on to commit with a gun – many did,” he said. Chipman said on the Reddit forum. “It’s a perfect opportunity to arrest people before they commit crimes rather than responding after the fact.”

“We don’t stop people before they commit crimes. It’s the kind of thing that’s reserved for bad post-apocalyptic dystopian novels and movies,” R-Utah Sen. Mike Lee told About this comment during the Chipman Judicial Committee markup.

Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, led the Republican resistance against Biden ATF candidate David Chipman.

Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, led the Republican resistance against Biden ATF candidate David Chipman.
(PA)

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The White House has defended Chipman, who left the Judiciary Committee late last month in a party line vote.

David Chipman served honorably in law enforcement for 25 years – promoted to positions of trust and leadership in the ATF, participating in complex investigations and putting himself at risk as a member of the SWAT team. of the Bureau, ”White House spokesman Michael Gwin said. Fox News on Chipman last month.

So far, Biden has enjoyed significant loyalty from Democratic senators to his candidates, successfully confirming several people Republicans have unanimously opposed. The only candidate for Biden who attended a hearing and was subsequently unconfirmed was Neera Tanden, the former candidate for the leadership of the Bureau of Management and Budget.

Manchin announced his opposition to Tanden after his confirmation hearing and ahead of his committee vote, largely citing his caustic Twitter story which included broadsides against a number of senators.

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Chipman’s appointment also sparked massive pressure campaigns both for and against his confirmation, with outside groups targeting moderate senators who could provide the deciding vote anyway.

The National Rifle Association announced last week that it was spending $ 250,000 on TV commercials in West Virginia to pressure Manchin to vote against Chipman. Giffords, meanwhile, has spent at least $ 150,000 on pro-Chipman ads while Everytown is asking activists to contact their senators to support Chipman.

It’s unclear exactly when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., will present Chipman’s nomination, but it is expected to happen this month.

Fox News’ Caitlin McFall and Morgan Phillips contributed to this report.

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