CNN: Suuure looks like Chipman's toast -- even to the White House

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

It certainly does, and has for weeks, but why is the White House admitting it? Today’s CNN report doesn’t offer much new on David Chipman’s status with Senate Democrats, but it does speak volumes about the Biden administration’s dawning realization of their predicament. With all of their demagoguery aimed at Republicans and gun-rights groups, the reality is that Chipman’s nomination is a no-sale among enough Democrats to matter, which leaves them on the precipice of an embarrassing loss:

President Joe Biden’s pick of David Chipman to serve as the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is nearing collapse, with members of the Senate Democratic Caucus withholding support and the chamber unlikely to hold a vote to advance the nomination before the August recess.

Publicly, the White House and Senate Democratic leaders are not giving up on the nomination. But privately, the assessment is far grimmer. At best, it appears Chipman’s nomination may be forced to be punted past the August recess, which makes the prospects for his confirmation even less likely.

“Never over until it’s over, but it certainly looks uphill,” a senior administration official told CNN.

One has to wonder what purpose that leak serves. The White House still wants Chipman to get a vote, at least nominally, although likely only if they’re sure he’ll pass. If Chipman comes up for a vote and loses one or more Democrats, it will make Chipman look extreme and make for an embarrassing defeat for Joe Biden. Of course, that’s a reason to withdraw his nomination, not leak to CNN that his prospects look “far grimmer.”

At the moment, three Senate Democrats remain uncommitted on Chipman. As I noted yesterday, most of the focus has fallen on Angus King, whose hesitancy likely will never get resolved — at least in terms of how CNN reports it:

King has not shut the door but has raised concerns to his colleagues about whether Chipman would be able to work effectively with the gun industry, the source told CNN.

Chipman has worked as a paid lobbyist for years, both with Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown and for the last four-plus years with Gabrielle Giffords’ political action group for gun control. If the measure King employs relies on Chipman’s ability to work with the firearms industry, then this nomination was doomed from the start. And let’s not forget that the other two Democrats — Joe Manchin and Jon Tester — represent much redder states than Maine, both of which have wooed gun manufacturers to set up shop and escape states with more intrusive gun-control laws. On that measure, Chipman’s likely to lose all three and not even come close to confirmation.

That’s been clear ever since Chipman’s confirmation hearing, in fact. So why did a “senior administration official” pick this moment to leak that view to CNN? They might be hoping to get Chipman to let them off the hook. Rather than have the White House withdraw the nomination — and in doing so admit defeat and incur the wrath of progressives — it could be a hint to Chapman to find a reason to spend more time with his family, and to do so before the Senate recesses for the summer. That’s a hint Chipman should take ASAP.