In a bit of a nail-biter scenario, B. Todd Jones on Wednesday was confirmed director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives by a vote of 53-42. It took a bit of convincing, however, hinging on the votes of two senators to keep the process moving forward.
Jones has been acting chief of the ATF since 2011. President Obama nominated him to lead it full-time in January as part of a package of responses to the Sandy Hook School shooting last December.
Senate Republicans had tried to block Jones' nomination in part because of concerns about an investigation of his handling of whistle-blower complaints during his tenure as a U.S. attorney in Minnesota. Six ultimately agreed to end debate on the nomination so it could move to the Senate floor for a vote after pro-gun groups, including the National Rifle Association, announced they wouldn't take sides.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) initially voted against allowing the nomination to move forward, but after some wrangling was convinced to change her vote. In addition, the procedure was held open for five hours so that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) could get to Washington to cast the critical last vote needed to end debate and move on to confirmation.
Obama in a statement called the confirmation "welcome and long overdue."
"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," he said. "I applaud Sen. Reid, Sen. Leahy, Sen. Klobuchar, and the bipartisan group of senators who broke through that gridlock to give Todd Jones the up or down vote he deserved."
The president also pledged to "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."
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(Photo: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images)