A last-minute round of heavy lobbying on the Senate floor came up with the votes needed to confirm Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones as the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Half-a-dozen Republicans joined the Senate's Democratic majority in voting to cut off debate, paving the way for Jones to be confirmed by a simple majority vote.
MPR reports the vote hinged on Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, who was being lobbied by both parties in full view of television cameras.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar tells MinnPost those conversations often happen before Senators arrive on the floor of the chamber. "This time," she says "it was there for the world to see."
Jones has been acting director of ATF for two years. It's been seven years since the bureau has had a permanent leader, with a succession of nominees having failed to gain Senate confirmation. Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley had led Republican opposition to Jones. As MPR reports, Grassley argued Jones was ineffective as Minnesota's federal prosecutor. But Democrats and some Republicans who worked with him came to Jones' defense.
Murkowski's decision to join Democrats in voting to end debate is the key to Jones' confirmation. But the Washington Post reports the final vote was delayed. North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, whose vote is needed to reach the threshold for cutting off debate, was on her way back to Washington after a trip home.