Steven Dettelbach, President Joe Biden’s pick to be the country’s top guns regulator, appears headed to Senate confirmation after key moderate senators announced their support Thursday.
Sen. Jon Tester’s spokesperson, Roy Loewenstein, said the Montana Democrat would vote for Dettelbach “because our law enforcement agencies need to be fully staffed with leaders who will combat crime and support our brave folks who keep Montana communities safe.” Sam Runyon, a spokesperson for Sen. Joe Manchin, also said Thursday that the West Virginia Democrat would support Dettelbach’s nomination.
Dettelbach would be only the second Senate-confirmed director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The White House in September withdrew Biden’s previous nominee for the position, David Chipman, amid opposition from Sen. Angus King (I-Maine.). Tester and Manchin said at the time that they were undecided on Chipman, though Manchin later said he had a “problem” with the nominee. King said last month that he’d support Dettelbach.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing for Dettelbach in May and is scheduled to report him out of committee next week. It’s not clear whether he’ll receive any GOP support, but he’s now expected to have the full backing of the Senate’s 50 Democrats.
Dettelbach’s likely confirmation comes as a bipartisan group of negotiators is trying to reach deal on gun safety measures this work period, after back-to-back mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y. and Uvalde, Texas. In the wake of the shootings, gun safety advocates have pushed for the Senate to swiftly confirm Dettelbach, who is a former U.S. attorney.
Dettelbach previously ran for attorney general of Ohio in 2018. At the time, he supported an assault weapons ban and universal background checks. That has been a main point of GOP criticism against him as he’s sought confirmation to the ATF.
B. Todd Jones, nominated under former President Barack Obama, is so far the ATF’s only Senate-confirmed director in history. The position did not require Senate approval until 2006.
Burgess Everett contributed to this report.