Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has rejected Republican calls for a second hearing on President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), calling the GOP request a ruse to tarnish the candidate and “unfairly derail” his nomination.
Durbin’s announcement came in an Aug. 2 letter to a group of Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee, who demanded a second hearing for ATF nominee David Chipman on grounds of what they described as “now-corroborated reports of racist comments directed at other ATF employees.”
“The Committee will not hold a second hearing on Mr. Chipman’s nomination based on baseless allegations by anonymous sources published in venues with an obvious agenda,” Durbin wrote, referring to a report in The Reload, which anonymously cited current and former ATF agents who confirmed the existence of a complaint accusing Chipman of making racist remarks.
“It is my fervent hope that Committee Republicans will quit embracing anonymously-sourced efforts to smear Mr. Chipman,” Durbin wrote, adding that he believes Biden’s nominee is the right man for the job.
Chipman’s confirmation would make him the first Senate-confirmed director of the agency since 2015.
The Republican senators, led by ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), last week wrote to Durbin demanding another hearing on the nomination, citing revelations in The Reload report that Chipman allegedly made racially insensitive comments while serving in the Detroit field office of the ATF.
“One current ATF agent said, ‘[Chipman] made some comments that he was surprised by the number of African Americans who have made it onto a specific promotional list … So, his insinuation was that they had to have cheated. Which is kind of despicable,'” the Republican senators wrote in their letter, which called on Durbin “to uphold the committee’s responsibility to closely scrutinize nominees like Chipman.”
In rejecting the Republican request, Durbin called it “just the latest in a string of efforts meant to unfairly derail Mr. Chipman’s nomination and tarnish his record and reputation,” while calling Chipman a “decent, honest, and conscientious public servant.”
Durbin also made reference to a response given by Chipman in writing to a question submitted by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), in which the nominee said he had received two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints during his 15 years as a manager with the ATF. Chipman said the complaints were “resolved without any finding of discrimination.”
After spending 25 years at the ATF, Chipman served as a senior policy advisor at Giffords, an organization that advocates for firearms restrictions, where he pushed for tighter gun laws. That put him in the crosshairs of Republicans and gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, which said in a recent statement that “Chipman’s extreme anti-gun activism should be enough to rule him out to lead the ATF.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in a statement called Chipman a “former anti-gun lobbyist who is unfit to lead the ATF” and urged President Joe Biden to “live up to his commitment to work across party lines” and put forward a nominee that has bipartisan backing.
Biden, who has advocated for tougher gun laws, nominated Chipman in April, with his confirmation facing an uphill battle in the evenly split Senate.