Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) announced Thursday that he would back President Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a significant win for the White House.
King, who previously indicated he would support Steve Dettelbach for the position, made it official in a statement Thursday that cited the importance of having confirmed leadership at the agency in the wake of tragic mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas.
“After meeting with Mr. Dettelbach, reviewing his record closely, and monitoring his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, I am confident that he has the experience and temperament required to lead the ATF with distinction,” King said in the statement.
“I also believe he will work to strike the important balance that this position requires: reducing gun violence while respecting the Second Amendment and the rights of law-abiding gun owners,” he added.
King’s support for Dettelbach is significant because the Maine senator did not support Biden’s first ATF nominee, David Chipman. Biden was forced to withdraw Chipman from consideration last fall after it became clear he lacked 50 votes to win confirmation in the upper chamber.
The White House has urged the Senate to move quickly to confirm Dettelbach in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting on Tuesday, which left 19 children and two teachers dead. The shooting has renewed a partisan debate about gun control measures.
The White House believes that Dettelbach, a former federal prosecutor from Ohio who has received backing from bipartisan mayors and law enforcement groups, will receive enough votes to be confirmed.
Dettelbach will need to receive support from all 50 senators, assuming that no Republicans vote to confirm him. Moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) have not yet said how they will vote.
Dettelbach sat for his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will need to vote to advance his nomination before the full Senate can consider it.
Senate confirmation hearings