Nearly one year after a disastrous Senate confirmation hearing, President Trump on Tuesday withdrew his nomination of Chuck Canterbury to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
The president last year had nominated Mr. Canterbury, the current national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, to head the embattled ATF. But after rankling senators on both sides of the aisle with evasive answers during a confirmation hearing last July, Mr. Canterbury’s nomination had been languishing.
Mr. Trump on Tuesday finally pulled the plug on Canterbury after some Republican senators signaled he had little chance of being confirmed.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, last fall said Mr. Canterbury’s confirmation vote was “going to be very problematic.”
“I’ll have that up to them, but I think that one will be a problem,” Mr. Graham said at the time.
The nomination was on the committee’s agenda until it broke for a two-week recess in October. Once the recess ended, Mr. Canterbury’s name disappeared from the committee’s vote schedule.
Republicans hold a 12-10 majority on the committee so unless Democrats are willing to crossover to support Mr. Canterbury — an unlikely scenario — he does not have enough votes to clear the committee.
Mr. Canterbury frustrated senators of both parties during his confirmation hearing last summer. Senators repeatedly pressed him for his opinions on the major gun-rights debates facing the country, but Mr. Canterbury demurred saying he could not stray from the FOP’s official positions.
Two Republican senators, Mike Lee of Utah, and John Kennedy of Louisiana said the dodging could cost their votes.
“I like straight answers, and you are being evasive,” Mr. Kennedy said at the time. “You have been nominated to run ATF. I think every member of this panel, both my Democratic friends and Republican friends who have feelings about the Second Amendment, are entitled to know both morally and legally what you believe.”
The exasperated senator repeatedly pressed Mr. Canterbury to name any gun ownership restrictions he might support. Mr. Canterbury said he wasn’t familiar enough with ATF policies to know if he could even implement restrictions.
“If you’re not familiar with the process running the ATF, then you are not qualified,” Mr. Kennedy said at the hearing.
Mr. Lee assailed Mr. Canterbury for repeatedly telling lawmakers he would rely on Justice Department and ATF experts for guidance.
“We are talking about investing immense regulatory power in you,” he said during the hearing. “Your answers today have not alleviated the concerns that I hoped you would alleviate today.”
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