Begich: It's 'far past time' for the Senate to confirm an ATF director

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyKey GOP chairman calls for 'robust review' of AT&T-Time Warner deal Dem asks for 'highest level of scrutiny' on AT&T-Time Warner deal Report: Investor visa program mainly funds wealthy areas MORE (D-Vt.) and ranking member Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyCruz: Precedent exists for keeping Supreme Court short-staffed Sanders to Justice Department: Block AT&T purchase of Time Warner Freeing the False Claims Act MORE (R-Iowa), Begich urged the lawmakers to hold a hearing to advance the nomination of acting ATF Director B. Todd Jones.

“As you are aware, the ATF has been without an official director since 2006,” Begich wrote on Friday. “I believe lack of leadership directly impedes the ability of any federal agency to operate effectively.”

Begich is up for reelection in 2014 in a state that votes heavily Republican and has a high level of gun ownership.

Some Democrats have accused the National Riffle Association (NRA) of using its lobbying power to prevent the advancement of an official director in order to ensure gun laws are not properly enforced. 

In April, the Senate tried to pass a comprehensive gun control bill to require background checks on all gun sales, but the measure failed to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. Begich voted against the background check measure.

Begich told Leahy and Grassley that he would support the nomination of Jones if he were to make it to the Senate floor for a confirmation vote.

“I am inclined to support his nomination based on not only the urgent need for leadership, but on his record as a public servant who works with both political parties to ensure public safety while respecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans,” the letter stated.