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Biden’s Choice to Run the A.T.F. Picks Up Support of 2 Key Democrats

WASHINGTON — President Biden’s candidate to head the controversial Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives appears to have secured the 50 votes needed to secure his confirmation, after two conservative Democrats voted in favor of his nomination Thursday.

Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana both announced their support of the nominee, Steven Dettelbach, and paved the way for him to become the first permanent director of the small agency responsible for gun law enforcement. of the country in nearly a decade.

Their support comes two weeks after Mr. Dettelbach, 57, a former federal prosecutor in Ohio, received the support of Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who consults with Democrats. The White House viewed Mr. King’s vote as critical: His decision to oppose Mr Biden’s first-choice for the job, David Chipman, a fiery former ATF agent, dropped the nomination.

“As a proud gun owner and defender of the Second Amendment, Senator Tester plans to support Mr. Dettelbach’s nomination as our law enforcement agencies must be fully staffed with leaders who fight crime and support our brave people who keep communities in Montana safe. ,” a spokeswoman for Mr. Tester, Sarah Feldman, wrote in an email.

Mr Tester tended to support the nomination but was concerned about Mr Dettelbach’s support for the renewal of the assault weapons ban, according to an expert.

Earlier in the day, Mr. manchin told CNN“I’m going to support him,” adding that the “ATF agents need leadership, and they need someone who understands what they are doing and how important their services are to our country.”

Government officials warned that Thursday’s announcements confirmed Mr. Dettelbach did not guarantee, saying a single defector could jeopardize the nomination. The Judiciary Committee, which met two weeks ago to discuss his nomination, has yet to vote on his confirmation.

Still, the moves are welcome news, as the White House is even trying to reach a step-by-step bipartisan compromise on gun control after the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas.

White House officials viewed Mr. Dettelbach’s hearings as a make-or-break moment for Mr. Biden’s stalled gun control agenda, which hinges on an energetic and powerfully-led ATF. evenly divided Senate.

That already unpredictable dynamic was turned upside down less than 24 hours before Mr. Dettelbach’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, when an 18-year-old man used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 19 students and two teachers at a school in Uvalde.

But the shock over the killings seemed to have shaken the momentum, at least for a day, in Mr. Dettelbach’s direction: the Republicans, who were expected to grill him about his previous support for renewing the assault weapons ban. , took on a remarkably less confrontational tone. — and opposition to his appointment to the gun lobby was relatively moderate.

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