The Senate confirmed controversial Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives nominee B. Todd Jones on a nearly party-line vote today, with Democratic leaders making Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) fly back from her home state to move forward President Obama’s pick.
Heitkamp’s vote was added to Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Mark Kirk (Ill.) to reach the 60 needed to end debate.
Jones was then confirmed 53-42. Kirk was the only Republican to vote in favor.
“For nearly seven years, Senate Republicans had refused to confirm an ATF director – not because they thought the nominees weren’t qualified, but because they put politics ahead of the agency’s law enforcement mission,” Obama complained in a statement after the vote.
“I applaud Senator Reid, Senator Leahy, Senator Klobuchar, and the bipartisan group of senators who broke through that gridlock to give Todd Jones the up or down vote he deserved. But while Todd’s confirmation will help ATF apply the tools it needs to protect our communities from dangerous criminals and reduce gun violence, we can’t stop there,” the president continued in a segue to gun control. “I will continue to stand with the majority of Americans who support common-sense reforms to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of criminals. And I will continue to do everything in my power to keep our children and our communities safe.”
Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who voted for Jones, said “when it comes to protecting our basic Second Amendment rights, I don’t agree with many members of my own party but today’s vote shows there are issues we can come together on in a bipartisan way to keep our communities safe.”
“There have been too many grave violations that have ended in tragic situations, including the Connecticut gun dealer who sold the gun used in the Newtown massacre and had committed over 500 violations before losing its license,” Begich said. “I expect Mr. Jones to keep our children and families safe while respecting Second Amendment rights.”
But Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the confirmation of the man named interim director after the Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal is a stain on the administration.
“What could have been an opportunity for the President to bring competent leadership to a department wrought with mismanagement is instead a signal from the top that reckless behavior is not only permissible in his administration, but rewarded,” Cornyn said.
“Mr. Jones’ nomination is an insult to the memory and families of those who fell victim to the botched Fast and Furious program. While I’m deeply disappointed this nomination is going forward, I will continue to push for answers for these families and hold this Administration accountable.”
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) noted after Jones’ nomination that the U.S. attorney hasn’t held key personnel accountable for Operation Fast and Furious and never publicly defended the whistleblowers in the scandal who faced retaliation for their actions.
Jones even taped a video for ATF employees to discourage whistleblowing, gave special treatment to a supervisor cited for negligence in Fast and Furious, and hasn’t been willing to engage with Congress in the Fast and Furious investigation, Issa said.
“Jones was first brought into the job of ATF Acting Director in the middle of the Fast and Furious scandal after Justice Department officials had falsely denied reckless conduct and allegations by his predecessor that there was an effort underway to shield the Department’s senior political appointees from the scandal,” he said. “Because of the numerous ATF mistakes during his tenure as Acting Director pertaining to Fast and Furious, his nomination is a slap in the face to the family of fallen Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, Mexican citizens whose murder has been linked to Fast and Furious weapons, and ATF whistleblowers whom he failed to support.”
Congrats to Todd Jones on his confirmation as ATF Director—a true leader in protecting our communities against gun violence.
— Valerie Jarrett (@vj44) August 1, 2013