Washington Bureau

07.31.13

Senate Confirms First ATF Director Since 2006

The Senate moved forward in dramatic fashion on the nomination of B. Todd Jones to head the ATF on Wednesday

The Senate voted to end debate on the nomination of B. Todd Jones to be director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) on Wednesday by a vote of 60-40 clearing the path for him to become the first person ever confirmed by the Senate to the post. All 54 Senate Democrats voted to end debate along with six Republicans. The vote was left open for almost five hours as senators waited for Heidi Heidkamp (D-ND) to fly in from her home state. Once cloture was finally achieved, Jones was speedily confirmed by the Senate by a 53-42 vote.

Jones had been the acting director of the ATF since 2011 while also serving as the US Attorney for Minnesota. The bureau had not had a permanent director since 2006, back when Rand Paul was an obscure ophthalmologist in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Anthony Weiner was a rising star in New York politics and, not coincidentally, the post did not require Senate confirmation.

Jones has been acting director of the ATF since 2011, when the agency’s previous leader resigned in the aftermath of the “Fast and Furious” scandal and was nominated to be permanent director in 2013. His nomination had met opposition from Republicans who were concerned about a complaint from an assistant U.S. attorney who serves under Jones in the District of Minnesota.

In the 2006 reauthorization of the Patriot Act, a provision was slipped in to require Senate confirmation with the support of the NRA, which has since actively opposed several nominees to head the ATF. However, with the gun lobby staying neutral on Jones’ nomination,  it removed the last obstacles for Democrats to reach cloture and avoid a potential filibuster of Jones’ nomination.