The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a Tuesday hearing for B. Todd Jones, the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota who President Obama has nominated to be director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The event is notable for several reasons. The Senate has been extremely slow to approve nominations for ATF chief. The ATF, part of the Justice Department, is supposed to regulate the gun industry, among other responsibilities. But the $1.1 billion agency has been without a permanent director for six years, dating to the Bush administration, due in part to opposition to nominees for the job by the influential gun lobby.
And the Jones nomination has stirred controversy. Jones has been under fire from critics both for his work as the acting ATF director and as the leader of the U.S. Attorney's office in Minneapolis.
He has been accused of mismanagement, abuse of authority and reprisal against an assistant U.S. attorney for engaging in whistleblowing “or other protected” activity, the Star Tribune reported. Assistant U.S. attorney Jeff Paulsen said he was unfairly disciplined, the newspaper reported. The U.S. Special Counsel, an independent agency that examines whistleblower cases, was investigating the charges, according to documents obtained by the newspaper.
Jones has been acting director of the ATF since August 2011. Obama formally nominated him for the job about five months ago, but the nomination has been stalled by GOP objections, the Star Tribune reported.