Joe Manchin has long touted his pro-gun views. He may be the deciding vote on who leads the ATF
Andrew Trunsky, DCNF
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, perhaps the most pro-gun Democrat in Congress, may be the pivotal swing vote deciding whether President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, gets confirmed by the Senate.
The former governor’s position on guns is especially important given the 50-50 Senate, which will consider the nomination of David Chipman to lead ATF. A former special agent for the ATF, Chipman is now a senior policy advisor for Giffords, the gun control group founded by former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords after she survived an assassination attempt in 2011.
Chipman has called for an assault weapons ban and criticized first-time gun buyers during the coronavirus pandemic, accusing them of “putting themselves and their families in danger” due to their unknowing how to store them safely.
While Chipman described himself as a “proud gun owner” who had been “mischaracterized as a gun grabber” in a January 2020 Roanoake Times op-ed, he would likely have an integral role in Biden’s push for universal background checks, “red flag” laws and other gun control efforts. Biden also called for an assault weapons ban, allowing gun manufacturers to be sued and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act Thursday as he introduced a slate of executive orders.
Manchin has long defended the Second Amendment, and even ran a political ad in 2018 where he shot through a lawsuit brought by his Republican challenger to overturn the Affordable Care Act. He broke with Democrats in March, declining to support two bills passed by the House that adopt universal background checks and increased the screening period for buying a gun from three days to 10.
“No, I don’t support what the House passed,” Manchin said then. “Not at all.”
“I’m basically where [Pennsylvania Republican Sen.] Pat Toomey and I have been,” he added, invoking a bipartisan legislative package that narrowly fell to a filibuster in 2013. “The most reasonable responsible gun piece of legislation, called Gun Sense, which is basically saying that [only] commercial transactions should be background checked.”
Manchin’s office did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment regarding his stance on Chipman’s nomination. Without Manchin’s support, however, he would be far less likely to achieve Senate confirmation, assuming every Republican opposes him as well.
It’s not the first time a nomination has centered around West Virginia’s senior senator.
In February he announced his opposition to Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, over her past tweets insulting both Republican and Democratic lawmakers by name. Unable to find a 50th vote to confirm her, the White House ultimately pulled her nomination.
Manchin also came out against Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, saying that the proposed 7% corporate tax increase was too high. He also said in March that he would block any infrastructure bill from passing if there was no earlier attempt at bipartisanship, and Republicans have overwhelmingly opposed the package as written thus far.
He has also been a leading Democratic voice against abolishing the Senate filibuster, putting himself on-record against doing so in a Washington Post op-ed after facing repeated inquiry from reporters and pressure from more liberal Democrats.
“There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” he wrote. “The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation.”