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Will Obama’s Gun Package Include Bypassing Congress on ATF Director?

Gun-control advocates including Bloomberg are urging a recess appointment for the nomination that's long been stalled in the Senate.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

January 15, 2013 - 5:16 pm
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The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence lauded the nomination of Traver to take over “an agency that is ‘under siege’ by the gun lobby and its allies in Congress.”

“Past ATF directors have been crucial advocates for strong law enforcement authority to combat gun trafficking and gun violence. They have spoken publicly, testified before Congress, and advocated within their Administrations about the need for strong gun laws,” said Paul Helmke, then-president of the Brady Center. “If Mr. Traver is confirmed, we are hopeful that he will be a strong voice for the strengthening and effective enforcement of our gun laws.”

The Traver nomination came shortly after the Brady Campaign roundly criticized the administration for not jumping on the task of naming a new director. Obama renominated him at the beginning of the 112th Congress but no Senate hearings have been scheduled for Traver.

President George W. Bush also had an ATF nominee, Michael J. Sullivan, whose confirmation was blocked over concerns from a gun dealer.

If recent public pressure statements are any indication, the next ATF director could be one of the executive actions meant to bypass Congress.

“There are certain things that the president can do as I said, administratively,” Rep. Mike Thomas (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Democrats’ gun-control task force, said on CNN today. “He can appoint a director of ATF.”

On Monday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged Obama to take that step “without congressional approval at any time he chooses with just the stroke of a pen.”

“The president can make a recess appointment to head the federal Bureau of Alcohol and Firearms. The ATF as it’s called hasn’t had a director for six years. Can you imagine how much outrage there’d be if we’d been without a Homeland Security Secretary for six years?” Bloomberg, co-chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said at a summit held by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Center for Gun Policy and Research.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns called on Obama to do the same five days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.

“The need for leadership at the ATF has never been more urgent,” the group wrote in a letter to Obama. ”The time has come for you to make a recess appointment to fill the vacancy at the top of the ATF.”

Biden will be addressing a broader group of city leaders, the United States Conference of Mayors, on Thursday.

While repeatedly saying that he wouldn’t divulge any of Obama’s proposals before tomorrow’s event, Carney did hint at the possibility of the administration trying to make its case to go behind Congress’ back on the Traver nod.

“I think an agency with the responsibilities that ATF has, it has lacked a confirmed leader for the amount of time that it does, I think reflects the lack of necessary focus on these problem,” Carney said. “It’s hard to measure what the impact of that absence has been, but it’s hard to imagine how it would be positive.”

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Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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