WASHINGTON – B. Todd Jones is on the cusp of becoming the first Senate-confirmed director of the ATF on Thursday, after a fierce lobbying effort successfully swayed a single Republican lawmaker to change her vote.
But a dramatic scene began to play out when Sen.
At one point Sen.
"I was concerned that she was being pummeled by both sides and thought she might need a little break," Collins later told reporters, joking that they just chatted about a recent dinner Murkowski had hosted at her home.
After nearly an hour, Murkowski returned to the Senate floor and announced she would instead vote yes.
In an unusual step that speaks to the narrow result, Senate leaders held open the vote so that a Democratic senator,
President Obama nominated Jones to be the permanent director in January, as he rolled out a series of other executive actions to address gun violence that he planned to make in response to the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Jones has been the agency’s acting director since 2011, when the previous director was dismissed amid fallout from the
His status remained in doubt for much of the year as Republicans moved to block his and a number of other executive appointments. The
But the NRA's late decision to remain neutral on Jones' confirmation, and a separate agreement between Senate Democrats and Republicans to process other stalled nominations, led Democrats to believe they could round up the needed 60 votes to break a GOP filibuster.
Republicans continued to express concern about ongoing investigations related to Jones’ tenure as U.S. attorney in Minnesota. Iowa Sen.
"We should not be conducting this vote until this matter is resolved," he said.
Grassley would later plead his case to Murkowski directly as it seemed she was wavering. She could be heard telling Democratic colleagues that she was concerned about the investigation Grassley cited.
At one point Sen.
“We’ve been able to march through some really difficult nominations like NLRB and
Another major factor, Klobuchar said, was the fact that since a 2006 law passed that required Senate approval of ATF directors, no nominee has been confirmed.
“At some point why would you have a confirmable position when under both
[Updated, 3 p.m. July 31: In a statement released by her office, Murkowski explained that her initial no vote was "based on my understanding that the nominee was the subject of an investigation, because I believe that it is common sense not to confirm someone who is the subject of an active investigation."
During the vote, Murkowski added, colleagues told her "that the investigation phase has concluded and a mediation process has been initiated to resolve this issue." Based on that information, she changed her vote so that Jones' nomination could proceed to a final up-or-down vote. At that point, she said she would vote against Jones.]
Murkowski has in recent years become a key swing vote in the Senate, often breaking with Republicans to support Democratic initiatives. First appointed to the Senate in 2002 after her father resigned his seat to become governor, Murkowski won a second full term in 2010 after first losing in a Republican primary to a