White House planning to withdraw ATF nominee

The White House is planning to withdraw David Chipman’s nomination to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, according to three sources close to the process.

Chipman is currently a senior policy advisor to Giffords, a gun control group, and faced an uphill battle to Senate confirmation as President Joe Biden’s point person on firearms regulation. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) had previously told the Biden administration and Senate Democrats that he was not supportive of the nominee. Other moderate Democratic senators, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, have also remained noncommittal on the pick.

Chipman, meanwhile, faced universal opposition from Senate Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell described the nominee as an “anti-gun extremist” and asked for the White House to withdraw his nomination.

The White House declined to comment on the imminent yanking of the nomination. It’s unclear when the formal withdrawal of Chipman’s nomination will take place, though it could happen as soon as this week.

During his confirmation hearing, Senate Republicans pressed Chipman over a recent interview in which he said new gun owners who have no training should only bring their guns out “if the zombies start to appear.” The nominee responded that the comments were “self-deprecating.”

The committee deadlocked on the nomination along party lines, which would have forced the Senate to vote to discharge him.

Chipman isn’t the only high profile White House nominee to be withdrawn amid opposition from members of the Democratic caucus. Neera Tanden, Biden’s initial pick to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget, withdrew in March amid opposition from Manchin and all 50 Senate Republicans.

Tanden ultimately joined the White House in a non-Senate-confirmed capacity as a senior adviser, however, and Chipman may also find a path into the Biden administration. A source close to Chipman said that the Justice Department offered him a position but that he turned it down.

Nonetheless, the decision to pull the nomination sparked frustration from gun control advocate Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla. “I am truly upset,” tweeted Guttenberg, a Biden ally. “We have weak people serving the Senate such as @SenAngusKing who chose to listen to ‘regulated industry.’ Sadly the White House failed to put up a fight on this.”

The Senate has confirmed only one ATF nominee, in 2013.

Anita Kumar contributed to this report.


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