Politics Senate advances key nominees for Joe Biden as president's Cabinet starts to take shape
Live updates: Biden to host labor leaders in Oval Office to discuss coronavirus relief, infrastructure
As part of his focus on the pandemic this week, the president plans to visit a Pfizer coronavirus vaccine manufacturing site in Michigan on Thursday. The meeting comes amid a stepped-up focus on the pandemic. Speaking at a nationally televised town hall on Tuesday, Biden pledged that any American who wants a vaccine will have access to one by the end of July and said he wants many elementary and middle schools to be open five days a week by the end of April.
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden's Cabinet rounded further into form Tuesday with the approval of two more nominees and confirmation hearings on three more.
The Senateto serve in the same position in Biden's Cabinet. That vote came shortly after senators confirmed Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to the United Nations.
Two more nominees –and Xavier Becerra for Health and Human Services – appeared before separate committees for confirmation hearings where GOP senators grilled the Biden picks.
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President Biden spoke about everything from the end of the pandemic to being "tired of talking about Donald Trump," while answering questions from members of the audience.Biden discussed a range of topics, from when every American will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the end of the pandemic, to being "tired of talking about Donald Trump" while answering questions from Cooper and members of the audience.
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With impeachment in the rearview mirror, congressional Democrats are directing their full attention toward President Joe Biden's agenda as they return to Washington this week. © MANDEL NGAN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images The dome of the US Capitol is seen in Washington, DC on March 27, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images) House Democrats unveiled their full $1.9 trillion stimulus bill on Friday, which is expected to move through the House Budget Committee and to a House floor vote this week.
Still, both are expected to win approval in the Democratically controlled Senate.
Also, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard a second day of testimony on– all from witnesses who gave glowing testimony of Biden's pick to run the Justice Department. The Senate is expected to vote next week on whether to endorse his nomination before it heads to the floor for a vote.
Here's a look at what happened today:
The Senateto be ambassador to the United Nations, a post that will quickly thrust her into the international spotlight.
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Charges of sexism and white male privilege are flying as Neera Tanden’s nomination looks increasingly doomed.Their fears had been bubbling for weeks, as Biden’s nominees of color came under sharp attack from conservative groups or saw their nominations delayed or opposed in greater numbers. But the worries burst out into open over the weekend as Neera Tanden’s nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget neared defeat at the hands of a Democrat.
Despite some fireworks during her confirmation hearing, Thomas-Greenfield won strong bipartisan support in Tuesday's 78-20 vote.
At the UN, Thomas-Greenfield will have a high-profile role in the Biden administration's efforts to restore America's standing as a global leader. And she will face an early test of her diplomatic mettle: The U.S. is scheduled to hold the Security Council's rotating presidency in March, giving the U.S. ambassador leverage to shape the body's agenda.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Thomas-Greenfield "exceptionally qualified” for the UN post and said her confirmation was urgent.
“She’ll assume the role of the UN ambassador at a time when the nations of the world must deepen their cooperation in the fight against COVID-19 and the fight against climate change, among other critical priorities,” the Democratic leader said during Monday evening's debate on her candidacy.
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President Joe Biden was more consistently factual in his first month in office than his predecessor ever was in office. But Biden was not perfect.President Joe Biden was more consistently factual in his first month in office than his predecessor ever was in office. But Biden was not perfect himself.
By an overwhelming 92-7 vote, the Senate returned Vilsack to the Cabinet.
Already the second-longest-serving U.S secretary of agriculture, the former Iowa governor is set to begin an unprecedented return engagement. He served in the same position from 2009 to 2017 under then-President Barack Obama .
Vilsack told Senate agriculture committee members at his confirmation hearing Feb. 2 that he would return to lead the 70,000-employee, $146-billion-a-year agency with the understanding "it's a fundamentally different time."
"I am a different person. And it is a different department," Vilsack said.
Vilsack 70, said the nation faces immediate challenges from the coronavirus public health crisis, including getting food to hungry Americans, protecting frontline meatpacking and farm workers, and rebuilding the U.S. economy from its pandemic-induced recession.
There is no racism or sexism in opposition to Biden's Cabinet nominees
Sometimes, Democrats are entirely predictable and transparent in their bad-faith political tactics. Take, for example, their insinuations that any and all opposition to President Biden’s Cabinet is the result of racism and sexism. © Provided by Washington Examiner Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for the Office of Budget and Management, is a conspiracy theorist who sees the Russians in every shadow. She’s ultra-partisan and unqualified. Between punching a journalist and outing an alleged victim of sexual harassment to her entire company, she doesn’t have the temperament to serve in any president’s Cabinet.
He also said farmers can lead in the fight against climate change; the agriculture department can address systemic racial inequities within farm programs; the U.S. can solve chronic hunger for millions of families; and it can address the problem of concentrated control of resources in the farm industry.
Haaland's chances of being the first Native American to land a cabinet post hit some choppy waters during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Tuesday.
Republican senators not only criticized Biden's climate change policies but some of her past statements opposing fossil fuels, as well as her October tweet that "Republicans don't believe in science."
“Rep. Haaland’s positions are squarely at odds with the mission of the Department of Interior,” Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the panel’s top Republican, said as the hearing opened. “That mission includes managing our nation's oil, gas, and coal resources in a responsible manner. Not eliminating access to them.”
Despite the concerns of Barrasso and other senators from fossil fuel states, Haaland is expected to win confirmation.
All five witnesses at Garland's confirmation hearing Tuesday praised the judge and former federal prosecutor, signaling his likely bipartisan confirmation next week as President Joe Biden's attorney general.
Politics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees
Especially in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, it is not unreasonable that some lawmakers, oppose endorsing nominees known for making highly partisan statements, particularly in an office like the OMB that requires a smooth working relationship with Congress.For Haaland and Becerra, their opposition is rooted largely in policy differences. Republicans voiced early opposition to Becerra because of his vocal support for "Medicare for All" and abortion rights, while Haaland has drawn conservative criticism as a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal and for her opposition to fracking.
Garland, a longtime federal judge and former federal prosecutor, testified Monday. On Tuesday, the five witnesses called by Democrats and Republicans spoke to his capability to become America's top law enforcement official.
Wade Henderson, interim CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, led off the Democratic witnesses in saying the Justice Department was “deeply tarnished” during the Trump administration through its support for discriminatory voting laws.
Becerra faced the Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor & Pensions for his confirmation hearing as the nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.
If confirmed, Becerra would be the first Latino secretary appointed to the role. As HHS secretary, he would play a crucial role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. surpassed 500,000 COVID-19 deaths on Monday.
Becerra faces two days of contentious Senate hearings and is set to testify before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, which will vote on advancing his nomination.
Prior to the hearing, some GOP lawmakers said Becerra, a former attorney with no medical experience, is unqualified to helm HHS, a $1.4 trillion agency with a broad portfolio, during the pandemic.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the HELP Committee, pushed back on the criticism when she opened the confirmation hearing.
"While the Trump administration ignored crises that impact public health like this pandemic, climate change and systemic racism, Attorney General Becerra has taken them on," she said.
Contributing: Deirdre Shesgreen, Bart Jansen, Savannah Behrmann, Donnelle Eller (Des Moines Register)
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:
Give Biden a Break .
The left and the media have lost perspective. He’s soon going to sign an enormous, progressive stimulus bill and get his Cabinet confirmed.Biden named all his major appointees well before taking office, and as recommended by every expert, pushed for early confirmation of his national security team, which he quickly secured. After some preliminary discussions with Republicans that demonstrated no real possibility of GOP support for anything like the emergency $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief and stimulus package he had promised, and noting the votes weren’t there in the Senate for significant filibuster reform, Biden took the only avenue open to him.