President Joe Biden’s pick of David Chipman to serve as the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is nearing collapse, with members of the Senate Democratic Caucus withholding support and the chamber unlikely to hold a vote to advance the nomination before the August recess.
Publicly, the White House and Senate Democratic leaders are not giving up on the nomination. But privately, the assessment is far grimmer. At best, it appears Chipman’s nomination may be forced to be punted past the August recess, which makes the prospects for his confirmation even less likely.
“Never over until it’s over, but it certainly looks uphill,” a senior administration official told CNN.
Chipman, a former career official at ATF, has come under scrutiny from pro-gun supporters and the NRA for his work as a top adviser with Giffords, a group that advocates for stricter gun laws. Key vote Sen. Angus King of Maine maintains he is undecided, as do other moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Jon Tester of Montana.
King is viewed as the key to Chipman’s fate – and he has privately indicated to the White House and Democratic leaders he’s unlikely to support the nominee, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.
King has not shut the door but has raised concerns to his colleagues about whether Chipman would be able to work effectively with the gun industry, the source told CNN.
Chipman has not made a decision on whether to withdraw as Democratic leaders and the White House are focusing squarely on King in the hopes to get him to back the nominee. If they lobby him to back Chipman, Democratic leaders are confident they can get the rest of the holdouts to support Chipman.
On Thursday, Sen. Dick Durbin, the number two Senate Democrat who also chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, could not say if the nomination would get a vote before senators leave for the August break – likely sometime next week.
“We need more time for all the nominations we have,” Durbin told CNN when asked if there was enough time to get a vote on Chipman as the Senate is consumed with an infrastructure package and budget resolution before the August recess.
When pushed on whether the nomination would have to wait until senators returned from recess in September, the usually chatty Durbin said: “I don’t know.”
Durbin also told CNN Thursday that he’s still working on votes for the Chipman nomination.
“It is pending,” Durbin said when asked about the status of the nomination, adding: “We are working on it.”
Asked by reporters if he was any closer to making a decision, Manchin said Thursday, “No,” while Tester told CNN he is “still evaluating.”