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October 9, 2015

ATF Pick Advances After Nail-Biter Senate Vote

Senate Democratic leaders struggled Wednesday to beat back a filibuster of President Barack Obama’s pick to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, holding a vote open for more than five hours and convincing one GOP senator to switch her position.

But in the end, the 60-40 vote crossed the threshold they needed to advance the nomination to a confirmation vote. Sixty votes are needed to limit debate, or invoke cloture, on most Senate business, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., recently backed off a plan to use the “nuclear option” to end the minority’s ability to filibuster executive branch nominees such as Jones.

Democrats spent almost an hour lobbying GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to change her vote, but even when she did they still fell one vote short without the vote of Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who was back home in North Dakota. So they took the unusual step of holding the vote open until Heitkamp could get back to Washington, D.C.

Murkowski explained her vote change in the following statement: “When I initially voted against cloture, it was based on my understanding that the nominee was the subject of an investigation, because I believe that it is common sense to not confirm someone who is the subject of an active investigation.

“During the vote, I was informed by colleagues that the investigation phase has concluded and a mediation process has been initiated to resolve this issue. Based on this new information, I voted to proceed to a yes or no vote on which I will cast my vote against Mr. Jones.”

The delay pushed a scheduled Wednesday vote on the nomination of Samantha Power to be United Nations ambassador to Thursday.

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