WASHINGTON, June 11 (UPI) -- A U.S. Senate committee held a contentious confirmation hearing Tuesday on B. Todd Jones, acting director of the alcohol, tobacco and firearms agency.
Jones has been the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' part-time interim director since August 2011 when Kenneth Melson resigned in the wake of the Fast and Furious gun tracking scandal. President Obama nominated him as director five months ago after the December school massacre in Newtown, Conn.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said Jones' record as U.S. attorney in Minnesota made him unfit to head the ATF, The Washington Post reported. Jones has continued to serve in Minnesota while heading the ATF.
"Why are we even here today? There are allegations of gross mismanagement and abuse of authority in Mr. Jones' office, and there is a complaint that Mr. Jones retaliated against a whistle-blower," Grassley said.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., defended Jones. She suggested Grassley and other senators are irresponsible for blocking the confirmation of a full-time ATF director since the post was made subject to confirmation in 2006.
"Something is wrong when the Senate fails to confirm the head of an agency for seven years," Klobuchar said. "Something is wrong when we have ATF agents, over 2,000 of them, on the front lines of major investigations like the Boston Marathon bombing. While victims lay dismembered in the hospital, the agents were on the front line figuring out who did it and what happened. And yet the Senate still will not confirm a permanent leader of this agency."
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., questioned whether Jones had disciplined any ATF agents over Fast and Furious. Jones, who was brought in as interim director after the scandal erupted, said he could not go into details of those who had been disciplined.
Fast and Furious was an attempt to track weapons sold in the United States, allegedly to people fronting for Mexican drug gangs.