ATF Director Confirmed After Drama
FILES - In this Jan. 16, 2013, file photo, acting Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director B. Todd Jones talks to Attorney General Eric Holder in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, after President Barack Obama signed executive orders outlining about proposals to reduce gun violence. Five months after Obama called on lawmakers to approve his choice to lead the ATF, the Senate is considering the nomination. When Jones appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday he will be just the second ATF nominee to face congressional questioning since the Senate was given authority to approve the agencys chief in 2006. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
Washington — The Senate on Wednesday confirmed a director to head the agency that regulates firearms and investigates gun and explosives crimes, ending an extraordinary seven-year run in which the agency has been without a permanent, full-time leader.
By confirming Todd Jones, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota and the acting part-time director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives by a 53 to 42 vote, Congress provided the Obama administration with a rare victory in its efforts to advance sweeping gun proposals. None of President Obama’s other legislative initiatives survived the congressional debate that followed the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December.
The National Rifle Association has effectively blocked past nominees to head the ATF. But NRA lobbyist Jim Baker said this week that the organization was not going to take a position on Jones and was not using the vote on his nomination to “score” senators, as the organization does with some other votes. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the group that represents firearms manufacturers, also threw its support behind Jones this week.
“While we have at times strongly disagreed with the policy and regulatory positions and interpretations ATF has taken during Mr. Jones’ tenure as acting director, we have never found Mr. Jones himself to be disagreeable,” the NSSF’s general counsel, Lawrence Keane, wrote in a letter Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “Under Mr. Jones’ leadership, ATF has always listened to our concerns and issues with an open mind.”
The confirmation vote came after a months-long debate over the nomination of Jones, a federal prosecutor and former Marine who was appointed to head the ATF in September 2011, after the agency was rocked by controversy over the “Fast and Furious” gun-trafficking operation.
It also turned into a political cliffhanger. The Senate had to keep open a procedural vote for nearly four hours until one member returned from out of state to cast her vote in favor of closing debate on the nomination. Without the appearance by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Democrats would have been one vote short of the 60 needed to prevent a Republican filibuster.