A bipartisan group of more than 100 mayors on Tuesday endorsed President Joe Biden’s nominee to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as the White House races to garner enough support to get Steve Dettelbach confirmed by the Senate.
The group sent a letter from the US Conference of Mayors to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urging them to vote swiftly to confirm Dettelbach, touting the former US attorney’s decades of experience and expressing confidence in his ability to work with local leaders.
Dettelbach faces an uphill battle to Senate confirmation but the endorsement from the large group of Republican and Democratic mayors is the latest sign of momentum building for the President’s nominee. The ATF has not had a Senate-confirmed leader since 2013, and the White House had to pull Biden’s last nominee in the fall due to a lack of support.
“Mr. Dettelbach understands and respects true partnership. He gets that the problems facing cities are not all the same, so that a one-size-fits-all approach makes no sense,” a copy of the letter shared with CNN reads. “And he also has shown that he can listen to local leaders, who often know the most about solving the problems facing their citizens. That is when the ATF can be at its best.”
If confirmed, Dettelbach would be charged with implementing Biden’s agenda on guns. The President – in the same speech in which he announced Dettelbach as his nominee – put forward new firearm regulations to contain the use of so-called ghost guns, which are self-assembled firearms that do not have serial numbers, making them difficult to track and regulate. Biden has described gun violence in America as an “epidemic” and called it an “international embarrassment,” after a string of mass shootings last year.
Dettelbach received an endorsement from a big law enforcement group last month, when the president of the Major County Sheriffs of America sent a letter to the committee’s chair, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, and top Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Leaders of major gun control groups including Everytown for Gun Safety have also praised Dettelbach’s nomination.
Administration officials have acknowledged Dettelbach faces long odds in the Senate, largely because gun-rights groups routinely oppose any nominee for the agency that regulates guns.
Biden had previously nominated David Chipman, a former ATF career official, to lead the agency. But the White House withdrew Chipman’s nomination last September after it became clear Chipman did not have the votes in the Senate needed for confirmation. Some senators questioned if his record as an advocate for stricter gun laws would make him a less effective director.
Dettelbach had been unanimously confirmed by the Senate to serve as the US attorney for the Northern District of Ohio under President Barack Obama. He has held positions within the Justice Department and the Senate Judiciary Committee and has served on the Ohio Ethics Commission. He made a failed bid for attorney general of Ohio in 2018.
CNN’s Evan Perez contributed to this report.