During today's press conference on his new executive actions focused on curbing gun violence, President Obama announced that he will nominate B. Todd Jones as permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Jones currently serves as the interim director of the agency; he was installed in September 2011 in the midst of the "Fast and Furious" gunrunning scandal that drew a months-long congressional inquiry. He is also employed in another high-level position: the U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota. And, according to his official biography on the ATF's website, Jones is familiar with guns: he served as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps and saw combat in the Gulf War.
The largest obstacle to Jones's confirmation, however, has nothing to do with his biography; he has, after all, proven that he can lead the bureau. Rather, it's the manner in which ATF directors are confirmed: since 2006, the position of ATF has required Senate approval, but given the perpetual political strife inherent to ATF's domain — gun violence in particular — not a single nominee has been confirmed in almost seven years.
There might be hope for Jones, though. Prior confirmation battles, in both the Obama and Bushadministrations, functioned as proxy battles over gun policy, but the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut — which spurred Obama to issue 23 executive actions, and implore Congress to ban assault weapons — might make certain legislative battles more important to Congressional Republicans than yet another confirmation hearing.