Senate begins confirming Biden cabinet nominations

lizkat

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Well the Senate has confirmed Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence... so that's an important first step done on Day One of the Biden administration.




The Senate on Wednesday confirmed President Biden's pick for US spy chief, Avril Haines, by a vote of 84 to 10.

Biden nominated Haines to serve as the director of national intelligence, a vast role overseeing 18 intelligence agencies that saw an extraordinary level of politicization during the Trump era. She previously served as deputy CIA director and deputy national security advisor under President Barack Obama.

I'm gonna sleep easy tonight for the first time in four years. I suppose that's not going to be the case for DNI Haines for awhile yet. The Trump administration in transition period was not always particularly cooperative on matters relating to the various intelligence agencies. Well then "no place to go but up" is how to look at that now, I guess.

Anyway some earlier reservations by Sen.Cotton about Haines appear to have been resolved.
 
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Scepticalscribe

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Well the Senate has confirmed Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence... so that's an important first step done on Day One of the Biden administration.






I'm gonna sleep easy tonight for the first time in four years. I suppose that's not going to be the case for DNI Haines for awhile yet. The Trump administration in transition period was not always particularly cooperative on matters relating to the various intelligence agencies. Well then "no place to go but up" is how to look at that now, I guess.

Anyway some earlier reservations by Sen.Cotton about Haines appear to have been resolved.

And, in addition, rejoining the Paris Climate Accords, rejoining the WHO, .....this is all a very good start.

Not to mention the utter transformation in the tone (let alone the content) of the press briefings.
 

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And, in addition, rejoining the Paris Climate Accords, rejoining the WHO, .....this is all a very good start.

Not to mention the utter transformation in the tone (let alone the content) of the press briefings.
I haven’t seen any of their press briefings yet. Do they take questions? That would be really radical! 😅

Lots of work to do, much to repair. Perhaps more than can be repaired. But it is at least comforting to hear adults speaking for a change.
 

Thomas Veil

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I'm curious about that myself--briefings in the White House Press Room. I mean, what a concept!

But yes, a very good start. DNI is such an important position, for all kinds of reasons...like if another country tries to "test" Biden, or domestic extremists are planning something again, or even some of Trump's intelligence* flunkies are destroying documents....

* That's the only time you'll ever probably hear me use those two words together.
 

lizkat

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haven’t seen any of their press briefings yet. Do they take questions? That would be really radical!

Jen Psaki did actually give the first press briefing today and promised to do them only "Monday through Friday" so the WH press corps can take a break on weekends. Sounds promising, and like a rollback to the days of Obama briefings.

Compare and contrast for those with short memories, courtesy of a column in the Washington Post:

The last time White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany appeared before the assembled press in the briefing room, she was well organized, as usual. It was Jan. 7, the day after the Capitol riot. Speaking for the “entire White House,” she plowed through a prepared statement deploring the actions of the rioters. Then she closed her briefing book and bolted. In all, it took one minute and 50 seconds.

(As has been reported since then, McEnany decamped to Tampa, FL after that.)

Contrast McEnany’s finale with that of Josh Earnest, who held the press secretary job at the end of the Obama administration. In his final appearance, Earnest reflected on his work at the White House, credited everyone who’d worked around him, listened as President Barack Obama offered a tribute — and took a whole bunch of questions from reporters. The whole thing lasted an hour. It was a graceful ending.
 

lizkat

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While waiting for Senate confirmation of his cabinet picks, Biden has named acting heads for those posts as well for a raft of other administration posts.


White House officials, in announcing the acting leadership, said “nearly all” are career civil servants, and many have spent years at the agencies they will now be temporarily leading.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske, for example, will be acting secretary of Homeland Security while Alejandro Mayorkas awaits confirmation. Putting Pekoske in charge means Biden will have a Senate-confirmed leader at DHS who has a deep working knowledge of the department. And David Cohen, who will be acting CIA director, was a deputy director at the agency under Obama and will be returning to that role under Biden.

Trump left a lot of posts unfilled for a long time. Nice to see in the Biden transition team's "acting" list cited in the piece, agencies like National Endowment for the Arts were not left without interim leadership.

In short, looks like some grownups came prepared to stand up a competent government immediately. The trolls who were mocking Biden for "operating out of a basement in Delaware" prior to his inauguration can slink off to their gopher holes now.
 

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Today the Senate confirmed Biden's appointment of Lloyd Austin to Secretary of Defense, 93-2.


Austin becomes just the third Pentagon chief to serve after receiving a waiver. He joins George Marshall, a retired general of the Army nominated in 1950 by President Harry Truman, and retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, former President Donald Trump's first defense secretary in 2017.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell explained that he was voting in favor of Austin because presidents should be allowed the latitude to fill their administration with "qualified, mainstream people."

The appointment required a waiver (as did Trump's appointment of Mattis) because Austin, a retired four-star general, has not been out of the active military for seven years. The House approved the waiver 326-78 yesterday and the Senate then approved it also, 69-27.


There were concerns about reasserting civilian control of the military after Trump had attempted to politicize it as commander in chief. Biden administration took note of that and had already made some appointments at the Pentagon before Austin's confirmation.


In anticipating the resistance to Mr. Austin and to adjust perceptions about civilian control, the new administration has taken the unusual step of putting a number of political appointees in place before others who require Senate confirmation even get a hearing. Mr. Biden has chosen Kathleen H. Hicks, a Pentagon official under President Barack Obama, to serve in the No. 2 slot, the first woman who would hold that position if confirmed.

“It is clearly a signal that the Biden administration wants the Pentagon to be ready on day one,” Ms. Bensahel said, “and that they want to have as many civilians in place as soon as possible.” The Trump administration left many political slots unfilled for weeks after inauguration.
 
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lizkat

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For those keeping track or just interested, here are key acting appointments President Biden has made for the interim while his permanent nominees for cabinet posts await confirmation.

 

lizkat

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Those who voted against Yellen were all Republicans of course. They are:

Cotton, Hawley, Boozman, Paul, Hoeven, Tuberville, Risch, Shelby, Blackburn, Barrasso, Lee, Cramer, Scott (Fla.), Cruz, Sullivan.​

This despite the fact that the Senate Finance Committee had voted Yellen's nomination out to the floor unanimously for the full Senate vote.
 

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Those who voted against Yellen were all Republicans of course. They are:

Cotton, Hawley, Boozman, Paul, Hoeven, Tuberville, Risch, Shelby, Blackburn, Barrasso, Lee, Cramer, Scott (Fla.), Cruz, Sullivan.​

This despite the fact that the Senate Finance Committee had voted Yellen's nomination out to the floor unanimously for the full Senate vote.
When the political ads come out for the next election, they can point to their “wonderful” record of opposing literally every single thing that Joe Biden ever did.
 

iMi

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Those who voted against Yellen were all Republicans of course. They are:

Cotton, Hawley, Boozman, Paul, Hoeven, Tuberville, Risch, Shelby, Blackburn, Barrasso, Lee, Cramer, Scott (Fla.), Cruz, Sullivan.​

This despite the fact that the Senate Finance Committee had voted Yellen's nomination out to the floor unanimously for the full Senate vote.

Shocker...
 

lizkat

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Even McConnell didn't oppose Yellen's nomination. He is more of a traditionalist on letting a president have his cabinet picks as long as he considers them "mainstream".

But yeah, no surprise Mitch couldn't get that crowd to go along. Most of them are the remnants of Trump's "Biden didn't win the election" underwriters in the Senate...

Richard Shelby's vote didn't really surprise me either. He had voted against Yellen's nomination to be Federal Reserve chief earlier, saying he didn't think she'd change course when necessary and that he disapproved of the Fed's "printing money" to stimulate Obama's ongoing economic recovery effort after the great crash in the previous admin. Yet on the fiscal policy side he has never seen a defense bill where he didn't want to tack in some megabucks earmarks for Alabama. In the Trump era he was all in on the tax cuts for the rich (but also up for Trump's desire to stick a pay freeze on federal employees).
 

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Anybody catch Rachel Maddow last night? She had a lengthy interview with Chuck Schumer, and at one point she asked him how he was going to break the organizational impasse that had Mitch McConnell still temporarily in charge of the Senate. He smiled and said, “Wait and watch.” Maddow asked him if he had something up his sleeve, and he gave her a grin like the cat that ate the canary and said again, “Wait and watch.“

As that pre-taped segment ended, Maddow came back on live and said that while that segment was playing, word had come in that Mitch McConnell had relented and would allow Schumer to take over the Senate under his own conditions.

Which leaves me extremely curious about what it was that Chuck Schumer knew. 😏 Whatever it was...well played!
 

lizkat

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Which leaves me extremely curious about what it was that Chuck Schumer knew. 😏 Whatever it was...well played!

Probably the fact that otherwise Schumer would proceed to take the money pieces of Biden's agenda through the reconciliation process, which only needs 51 votes.. and so Vice President Kamala Harris would essentially be ruling the roost, breaking ties and sharing press coverage with the President on accomplishments of Biden administration. Not quite the look McConnell would hope to have as the Rs head into 2022 fundraising.
 

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Anybody catch Rachel Maddow last night? She had a lengthy interview with Chuck Schumer, and at one point she asked him how he was going to break the organizational impasse that had Mitch McConnell still temporarily in charge of the Senate. He smiled and said, “Wait and watch.” Maddow asked him if he had something up his sleeve, and he gave her a grin like the cat that ate the canary and said again, “Wait and watch.“

As that pre-taped segment ended, Maddow came back on live and said that while that segment was playing, word had come in that Mitch McConnell had relented and would allow Schumer to take over the Senate under his own conditions.

Which leaves me extremely curious about what it was that Chuck Schumer knew. 😏 Whatever it was...well played!
Of course I caught that. (I rarely miss Rachael.) My daughter texted me shortly after the interview started to point out how good Chuck looked, and that isn't it interesting how all the Democrats are looking ten years younger with Trump out of Washington? Amen, little sister.
 

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Of course I caught that. (I rarely miss Rachael.) My daughter texted me shortly after the interview started to point out how good Chuck looked, and that isn't it interesting how all the Democrats are looking ten years younger with Trump out of Washington? Amen, little sister.
Same. That was quite the interesting interview. Schumer's grin was everything. Really curious to see how this plays out.

 
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lizkat

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Antony Blinken is confirmed 78-22 as Biden's Secretary of State.


Blinken defended the Iran nuclear deal, from which the U.S. withdrew under Trump, and assured senators he would consult with them on Iran, making clear that Tehran would have to come back into compliance with the deal for Washington to ease sanctions.

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. James Risch of Idaho, said Tuesday he disagreed with Blinken on Iran but found "tremendous areas of agreement" on other subjects and cited Blinken's "long and distinguished history when it comes to statecraft in foreign relations matters."

The new secretary of state is steeped in the world of diplomacy. He's a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School who speaks fluent French. His father and uncle were both ambassadors. He told senators he sees public service as a "sacred duty — payment on the debt our family owes to the nation that gave us refuge and extraordinary opportunities across the generations."

Longer piece on Blinken in The Guardian

 
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