Joe Biden has been very successful in having his nominees, no matter how radical, confirmed — especially considering that the Senate is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. As far as I know, only one Biden nominee has failed. Biden had to withdraw Neera Tanden’s nomination to head the OMB because she had insulted a number of Senators.
But other, more radical nominees like Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke were confirmed, even though Gupta too had insulted Senators and Clarke is a racist with a past history of anti-Semitism.
Now, however, a Biden nominee seems to be in pretty serious trouble. David Chipman, the choice to head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, doesn’t yet have the votes needed for confirmation. He may not be able to get them.
Chipman is a former anti-gun lobbyist. He has mocked new gun owners.
Chipman wants to ban all “assault weapons.” During his confirmation hearing, Sen. Tom Cotton tried to pin him down on his definition of assault weapons. Chipman struggled to answer.
He did say that the ATF defined an assault weapon as “any semi-automatic rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine above the caliber of .22, which would include a .223, which is, you know, largely the AR-15 round.” Cotton noted that this definition would encompass “almost every modern sporting rifle in America.” Later, he added, “We’re not taking about millions of firearms, we’re talking about tens of millions of firearms that Joe Biden’s ATF nominee wants to outlaw and confiscate.”
Chipman’s views don’t sit well with a few Democratic Senators, either, or at least with their constituents. The Washington Post lists the following Dems as uncommitted when it comes to confirming him: Jon Tester (Montana), Joe Manchin (West Virginia), and Angus King (Maine, technically an independent but functionally a Democrat).
Every Republican Senator is considered a “no” vote. Susan Collins has said she won’t vote to confirm Chipman. Thus, Team Biden can’t afford to lose the vote of a single Democrat.
The Democratic leadership keeps putting off a vote hoping to lock down the holdout Dems. The White House may have to withdraw the nomination.
No one has been confirmed to head the ATF since 2013. The job has been held by a series of acting directors since 2015.
Maybe the Senate will enable Chipman to break this string, but if so, it will be with considerable difficulty.