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The Nation

ATF nominee is trapped in D.C. crossfire

Gun-rights advocates, armed with new Senate power to stall the bid, protest bureau action against dealers.

February 25, 2008|Richard B. Schmitt | Times Staff Writer

Bush has been unable to name a new U.S. attorney while Sullivan's ATF nomination is pending, so Sullivan is juggling both jobs: spending most of his time in Washington, but commuting at least one day a week to Boston to check up on his office there -- which he has occupied since 2001 -- as well as see his family.

The position of ATF director was not subject to Senate confirmation until 2006, when the Patriot Act was reauthorized with the little-known ATF provision. Both the gun industry and gun-control groups said the confirmation requirement would make the agency more accountable to the public. But it also created an opportunity for activists to throw a wrench into the confirmation process.

After the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Sullivan's nomination a few months ago, the Gun Owners of America sent an "emergency" fax to the offices of all senators, urging them to oppose it.

"Under Sullivan's leadership, the ATF has gone berserk," the group wrote. "Sure, the problems at ATF didn't originate with him, but Sullivan has certainly done nothing to put out the fire."

Sullivan does have the support of Democrats, including his home-state senators.

"Michael Sullivan has spent a lifetime protecting communities from crime," Sen. John F. Kerry said. "I want to see this experienced and capable nominee confirmed."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has said that he looks forward to working with Sullivan on gun-control issues.

This is one case in which the Democrats are in accord with the Bush administration.

"The president remains committed to Mr. Sullivan's nomination," said White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore. "We would continue to call upon the Senate to provide Mr. Sullivan and the other pending nominees with a fair vote."


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