McConnell raised a series of developments regarding Chipman, including sources described as current and former ATF agents claiming Chipman made racially discriminatory remarks while working for the agency in the past.
McConnell also noted that Chipman failed to disclose to the Senate Judiciary Committee a 2012 appearance on a China-run television network. At the time, Chipman was a special agent at the ATF.
“This wasn’t just any TV appearance. Mr. Chipman had granted an interview to a propaganda network overseen by the Chinese government,” McConnell said on the Senate floor in Washington.
“The Senate has spent quite enough time flirting with this profoundly misguided nomination. The American people deserve a trustworthy steward leading the ATF with a record of respecting their rights and respecting his or her colleagues. It is long past time the Biden administration revisits this decision and sends us somebody who fits that description,” he added.
Republicans have appeared unanimous in their opposition to Chipman and his nomination has failed to go through the Democrat-controlled Senate because a handful of Democrats or nominal independents haven’t pledged support for the former agent, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Angus King (I-Maine).
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week that the administration “knew this wouldn’t be easy,” in part because the ATF has not had a Senate-confirmed director in six years.
“We’ve been eyes wide open into the challenge from the beginning, but we are disappointed by the fact that many Republicans are moving in lockstep to try to hold up his nomination and handcuff the chief federal law enforcement agency tasked with fighting gun crimes,” Psaki said.
“It speaks volumes to their complete refusal to tackle the spike in crime we’ve seen over the last 18 months. This is someone who has 25 years in distinguished service to our country as an ATF agent. He has the exact set of skills and experience we need to revitalize the bureau’s work to crack down on gun trafficking, keep guns out of the hands of criminals. So certainly, yes, we stand by his strong qualifications and nomination,” she added.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also weighed in last week, telling Republicans on his panel that he would not hold a second hearing on Chipman’s nomination.
“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 told them, referring to a report in The Reload, which anonymously cited current and former ATF agents who said a complaint accusing Chipman of making racist remarks exists.
“ATF needs a Senate-confirmed leader, and Mr. Chipman is well-qualified and has been extensively vetted for the role. He deserves to be confirmed. And it is my fervent hope that Committee Republicans will quit embracing anonymously-sourced efforts to smear Mr. Chipman,” Durbin added.