Biden and his allies call for swift confirmations from national security candidates

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Biden’s transition team begins a new messaging campaign to urge Republican senators to quickly confirm national security candidates – positions at the head of the Pentagon and state, Homeland Security and other key departments – with Biden ready to take office in eight days, a source familiar with the plans told CNN. Politico was the first to report on the efforts of Biden’s team.

Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s choice for Homeland Security secretary is a top priority in their campaign, the source said. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs announced on Tuesday afternoon that it will hold a confirmation hearing for Mayorkas on January 19.

The push is getting a boost from Senate Democrats, including Senior Democrat Chuck Schumer, who told colleagues on Tuesday in a letter that the riots on the U.S. Capitol fueled by President Donald Trump last week and the economic costs driven by the coronavirus pandemic made it particularly important for Biden’s Cabinet to be in place quickly.

“The violent insurgency at the United States Capitol on January 6 has shown us that we need qualified and Senate confirmed people (not acting) in key national security positions on the first day, including the Secretary of State. Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and others. The economic challenges facing our nation also require that key economic candidates be confirmed and up to work as soon as possible, ”Schumer wrote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had vowed to vote for Biden’s candidates, but made no commitment to a timeline for doing so. Democrats, however, will take a Senate majority as soon as Biden is inaugurated, thanks to victories in two rounds of the Georgia Senate last week and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ position as the deciding vote. in a 50-50 Senate. This could allow a Democrat-led Senate to act much faster on Biden’s candidates.
Louisiana Representative Cedric Richmond, who will soon be resigning his House seat for a White House post from Biden, lambasted Senate Republicans on Tuesday for failing to hold hearings for Mayorkas and other candidates for national security, as has been done for previous administrations.

“Almost all Homeland Security Secretaries were confirmed on day one, and that was in 2009 and 2017,” Richmond said. “So the fact that the Senate does not hold a hearing so that we can confirm our members of national security on the first day is irresponsible to the American public. ”

Last week’s deadly insurgency on Capitol Hill has drawn attention to security concerns, leading Biden’s team and his allies in Congress to start pushing for Cabinet confirmations to ensure he There will be no gaps when Biden takes office on January 20.

“We are in a pandemic, an economic crisis and face serious security threats – people cannot afford to wait,” said the source close to Biden’s plans.

Lloyd Austin, whose appointment as Secretary of Defense requires a waiver of Congress, and Tony Blinken as Secretary of State, as well as Janet Yellen as Secretary of the Treasury, are other key national security positions for which the transition seeks rapid confirmation.

“I expect and hope that the Senate will act to confirm these nominees quickly and fairly. This is especially the case for the Secretary of State for Defense, Treasury and Homeland Security, ”Biden said as he introduced another round of choices for economic positions. last week.

“Considering what our country has been through for the past four years, these past few days, given the threats and risks in this world, they should be confirmed as close as January 20,” he said. “There should be no vacant positions at the level of State, Defense, Treasury and Homeland Security. ”

With Congress now focused on a second impeachment of Trump, Biden expressed hope Monday that the Senate would be able to “fork” the process, dividing his time between a possible impeachment trial and the confirmation of his candidates and l progress of its program.

So far, the only confirmation hearings scheduled for Biden’s nominees are for Austin and Yellen, both on January 19.

Trump’s choices for Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security were both confirmed on January 20, 2017; many other Cabinet nominees were confirmed the following month.

Former President Barack Obama retained the services of George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense and saw his nominations for Secretary of Homeland Security, Education, Energy, Agriculture, the interior and veterans confirmed on the day of its inauguration, others confirmed shortly after.

Several Bush Cabinet candidates were also confirmed on his inauguration day, including his candidates for Secretary of Defense, State and Treasury.

“Regardless of any development, with our national security at stake, the pandemic claiming thousands of lives every day, and our economy in a historic recession, there is absolutely no justification for Republicans to jeopardize government capacity. of the United States to keep the American. people are safe, dispensing vaccines and getting Americans back to work, ”said Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for Biden’s transition.

“Many of these respected, qualified and crisis-tested nominees were announced in November, many have already been confirmed, and their documents have been submitted. We look forward to continuing to work in good faith with both sides on timely confirmations, ”Bates said.

This story has been updated with the date of Mayorkas’ confirmation hearing.

CNN’s Jessica Dean and Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.

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