ATF head Melson to testify on Gunwalker

ATF interim head Ken Melson has been itching to testify before Rep. Issa's committee so that he isn't turned into a convenient fall guy, even hinting that he could say interesting things about his boss, AG Eric Holder. Now there's word that he will testify, but it's thanks to a deal between Sens. Grassley and Leahy.

Grassley and his fellow Republicans were given full access to ATF documents, Melson, and other key witnesses; and in return, Grassley agreed to release three Obama administration nominees he had been blocking, according to correspondence obtained by NEWSWEEK and THE DAILY BEAST.

Tactically, this is very smart on the part of the Republicans and we need to see more of it. It works like this: Senator A puts a hold on X number of Obama nominees, which Senators can do for any reason. Keep that hold in place as long as the administration stonewalls on Gunwalker or another issue the Senator is working. Release the hold once you get the administration to play ball. That's what Grassley has apparently done here. It sounds like hostage taking, but as long as the administration is going to ride roughshod over Congress' authority and oversight, Congress has to use what powers it has to force the administration to open up. The confirmations process, which the Democrats militarized over Robert Bork back in the 1980s, is fair game.

Gunwalker is a big deal. Not only did it lead directly to the death of a US Border Patrol officer; guns from the operation have turned up on US streets. And as Bob Owens has written, it looks like it may have been a political operation to soften support for Americans' Second Amendment rights. Owens handicaps the possible outcomes from Melson's testimony, which range from Melson taking the fall to meltdown in the DOJ. Stay tuned.