The Senate voted on Tuesday to confirm Steve Dettelbach as President Joe Biden’s pick to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Successful confirmation of the nominee is a victory for the Biden administration and comes in the wake of a string of recent mass shootings – in Buffalo, New York, Uvalde, Texas and Highland Park, Illinois – that have shocked the nation and led to calls for further action to address gun violence in America.
The confirmation vote marks a major milestone since the ATF has operated under a series of acting directors since its last Senate-confirmed leader stepped down in 2015, and the Senate last confirmed an ATF nominee in 2013.
Dettelbach is a former federal prosecutor and was previously unanimously confirmed by the Senate to serve as the US attorney for the Northern District of Ohio under President Barack Obama.
During his confirmation hearings, he vowed he would not be influenced by political considerations, saying he is dedicated to upholding the law free from political interference and would do so in the post of ATF director if confirmed.
“Politics can play no role in law enforcement. None at all,” he said at the time.
“I have lived that credo and I vow to continue to do it because people need to have confidence that people in law enforcement’s only agenda is to enforce the law – and if you’re at the ATF to catch the bad guys and protect the public,” he said.
“I vow to never let politics in any way influence my action as ATF director,” he added.
The White House suffered an embarrassing setback in its efforts to confirm a nominee to head the bureau last fall.
In September 2021, the White House withdrew David Chipman’s nomination to lead the bureau. Biden put the blame on Republicans for the inability to get Chipman confirmed, but there were concerns over the nomination from moderate Democrats, independent Sen. Angus King of Maine and GOP senators, over the nominee’s past record on gun control.
The incident highlighted the challenge of securing successful confirmation of an ATF director given the contentious political nature of gun control policy.
CNN’s Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.