May 26, 2021

Durbin Questions Nominees to Lead ATF and DEA in Judiciary Committee Hearing

WASHINGTON – During the Senate Judiciary Committee’s sixth nominations hearing of the 117th Congress, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned David H. Chipman, nominee to be Director, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); and Anne Milgram, nominee to be Administrator of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  Durbin noted that Mr. Chipman’s nomination is already facing baseless attacks from the political fringe in an attempt to sink his nomination and offered him the opportunity to respond to these claims.  If confirmed, Mr. Chipman, who is a 25-year law enforcement veteran, would be only the second confirmed ATF Director in the agency’s history and the first Director to have served as an ATF Special Agent.

“It seems that some on the political fringe are willing to say whatever it takes to try to sink your nomination,” Durbin said.  “That includes peddling baseless claims about your work as an ATF Special Agent in Waco, Texas, and statements that you made regarding attacks on a helicopter supporting ATF operations in Waco.”  Durbin also addressed a photograph purporting to show Chipman in the aftermath of ATF’s operations at Waco.  “So now is your chance to open up by telling us the facts.  Would you comment on your role at Waco, this purported photograph, and the statements you made regarding the helicopter attack?”

Mr. Chipman responded by stating that he was directed to report to Waco in May 1993, a month after the events at Waco had concluded.  He had no involvement in the case before that time.  In regards to the photo, he stated that it is simply not him.  And Mr. Chipman noted that his statements regarding attacks on a helicopter supporting ATF operations in Waco could have been more clear, and apologized for any confusion he created.

Durbin then questioned Ms. Milgram, nominee to be Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, about the continuing opioid epidemic and DEA’s role in deciding how many opioid pills can be produced by Big Pharma each year.

“Between 1993 and 2015, the agency which you are hoping to lead, allowed production of oxycodone to increase 39-fold—from 3.5 tons to 151 tons—with DEA approval.  Senator Kennedy and I authored legislation to require DEA’s quota-setting to take into account the fact that that was way too many, and there were many people who were abusing them and too many overdose deaths,” Durbin said.  “I am encouraged that the quota has gone down [resulting in a decrease] from 14 billion opioids on the market in 2016 to 9.7 billion in 2019, but that is still too much.  That is enough for every adult in America to have a two-week supply.  Haven’t we learned our lesson?  Have you addressed this issue?  Are you aware of it?”

Ms. Milgram agreed with Durbin that drug diversion remains a critical and urgent mission for DEA.  She committed to Durbin that this will be a high priority issue for DEA, if she is confirmed.

Durbin, along with U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-LA), was the lead author of the 2018 law that enhanced DEA’s opioid quota-setting authority by improving transparency and enabling DEA to adjust quotas to consider public health consequences and prevent opioid diversion and abuse while ensuring an adequate supply for legitimate medical needs.

Video of Durbin’s questions to Mr. Chipman and Ms. Milgram in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions to Mr. Chipman and Ms. Milgram in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions to Mr. Chipman and Ms. Milgram in Committee is available here for TV Stations.

Durbin also questioned Tiffany P. Cunningham, nominee to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Federal Circuit.  Durbin noted Ms. Cunningham’s impeccable credentials, including an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from MIT, a law degree from Harvard Law School, and a clerkship on the Federal Circuit.  She has also spent nearly two decades as an intellectual property litigator, and has worked on every aspect of patent litigation—from the inception of a case through discovery, trial, and appeal.

“At this point in your career, you seem to be at the top of your game.  Why do you want to give it up to be on the bench?” Durbin asked.

Ms. Cunningham noted that serving as a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Federal Circuit is her dream job and that she is humbled to be nominated.

Video of Durbin’s questions to Ms. Cunningham in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions to Ms. Cunningham in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions to Ms. Cunningham in Committee is available here for TV Stations.

Also participating in today’s nominations hearing were Margaret Irene Strickland, nominee to be U.S. District Judge for the District of New Mexico; Ur Mendoza Jaddou, nominee to be Director, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; and Kenneth Allen Polite, Jr., nominee to be an Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division.

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