biden cabinet
March 10, 2021

The Senate confirmed Merrick Garland as attorney general on Wednesday with a 70-30 vote. He received support from 20 Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said he backed Garland "because of his long reputation as a straight-shooter and legal expert," adding that "his left-of-center perspective has been within the legal mainstream."

McConnell's praise may come across as a little surprising, considering, as then-majority leader, he was at the forefront of the Republican strategy to block Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court in 2016 during former President Barack Obama's last year in the White House. However, even at the time McConnell claimed his stance on the matter was not related to Garland specifically, but rather his belief that a president should not name someone to the high court in an election year. McConnell's critics never really bought into that argument, however, suspecting that he was using his political power to maintain a conservative-majority bench, which he appears to have secured after three new justices were confirmed during the Trump presidency.

Of the 19 other Republicans who gave Garland the thumbs up for attorney general, only Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) was not a member of the upper chamber in 2016. Read more at The Courier-Journal. Tim O'Donnell

February 24, 2021

Both the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Budget Committee postponed their Wednesday hearings to vote on Neera Tanden's nomination as director of Office of Management and Budget in what is viewed as a "bad sign" for her confirmation chances. Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) reportedly called Tanden to personally inform her of the news.

CNN's Jake Tapper suggested it could be the first real sign that the controversial nomination will be pulled before a confirmation vote, although White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki continued to defend Tanden, whose past inflammatory comments have raised bipartisan concerns from senators, on Wednesday.

Tapper and his colleague Manu Raj explain that the reason for both the delay and the White House holding firm is uncertainty about where Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), a crucial centrist vote and member of the Homeland Security Committee, stands. If she follows Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and announces her opposition then "it's over for Tanden," Raj reports. But if Sinema does back Tanden, the White House reportedly has some hope that moderate GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) will vote with Democrats, creating a 50-50 split and setting up a Vice President Kamala Harris tie-break. Tim O'Donnell

February 22, 2021

Judge Merrick Garland, President Biden's nominee for attorney general, has spent a fair amount of time telling Republican senators during his confirmation hearing Monday that he'll operate as independently as possible in the role, and it appears they were satisfied with his assurances.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) asked Garland if he would resign in response to any unlawful or unethical requests from the executive branch. The judge explained he would first tell "the president or whoever else was asking me to do that" that the request was, in fact, unlawful. But, Garland continued, if he was unable to divert the plan to a more ethical course, he would indeed step down.

With that in mind, Garland said he isn't concerned about a situation like that arising because President Biden has made it "abundantly clear" privately and publicly "that investigations and prosecutions will be left to the Justice Department."

Earlier in the hearing, Garland said his vision for the Justice Department is to "dispense the law fairly and impartially without respect to persons and without respect to political," which he said is in line with both his personality and "everything I've done in my career." Tim O'Donnell

February 22, 2021

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Monday announced she won't vote to confirm Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget. The decision isn't particularly surprising — Tanden is widely viewed as a controversial choice in large part because of past inflammatory comments she's made on social media (including some directed at Collins) — but it is crucial. With Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) coming out against Tanden last week, her confirmation chances likely rest in the hands of Collins' fellow moderate Republicans, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he was still searching for the extra vote, and the White House has remained defiant about Tanden's nomination, with Press Secretary Jen Psaki offering renewed support after Collins' announcement.

But as of now it remains unclear whether Romney or Murkowski will bite. Per Politico, President Biden could potentially offer the senators "something significant in return" for their votes, or Romney or Murkowski could look back Tanden as a way of gaining the upper hand in a centrist power struggle with Manchin. That latter idea certainly has its skeptics, however. As The Dispatch's Haley Byrd Wilt explains, that theory "fundamentally misunderstands" the relationship being cultivated by those in the center of the split Senate. Tim O'Donnell

February 21, 2021

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday that he is still working with President Biden to find the votes to confirm the latter's controversial nominee for Office of Management Budget director, Neera Tanden, CNN reports.

Tanden's confirmation is looking increasingly unlikely after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), perhaps the most crucial swing vote in a Senate with the slimmest of Democratic majorities, said he won't back Tanden because she's made "overtly partisan statements" in the past that "will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next" OMB director.

But Schumer and Biden apparently aren't giving up and will try to snag at least one Republican vote to get Tanden into the Cabinet, rather than shift their attention to a new nominee. Tim O'Donnell

February 10, 2021

As Neera Tanden, President Biden's nominee to take over as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, sat Wednesday for her confirmation hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, read aloud some reviews her former employees at the Center for American Progress left on Glassdoor over the last few years.

Graham noted that Tanden, the president of CAP, referred the committee to the reviews, some of which were far from flattering about the management at the public policy organization, even when the overall experience was considered positive ("Great experience, terrible management," one read.) "All I can say," Graham said after going through some of the negative comments, "is that this is not the unifying pick that I was looking for in this position."

Republicans like Graham weren't the only ones to raise concerns about Tanden. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the chair of the committee, joined some GOP colleagues in questioning Tanden about some inflammatory comments she previously made on Twitter. "Your attacks were not just made against Republicans," he said. "There were vicious attacks made against progressives. People I have worked with."

Sanders acknowledged lawmakers are used to such criticism, but he clarified that "it's important" to refrain from personal attacks and instead express "differences on policy." Tanden told Sanders she regrets her past remarks and will change her approach if confirmed. Tim O'Donnell

January 21, 2021

Both the House and Senate have approved a special waiver needed for President Biden's defense secretary pick to be considered for confirmation.

Leading the Pentagon is a job meant for a civilian, but Biden's pick for the the job, Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin, has only been out of the military for five years. That meant that, like when former President Donald Trump named Ret. Gen. James Mattis to the position in 2017, both the House and Senate would have to vote on a waiver to the civilian requirement allowing Austin to take the role before he's been out of the service for seven years.

The House voted overwhelmingly to approve Austin's waiver on Thursday, 326-78, sending it to the Senate within an hour. The Senate approved the waiver shortly after, with both Republicans and Democrats objecting.

Thursday's vote doesn't mean Austin will become defense secretary, but is a good indicator of the majority he'll end up receiving once his nomination goes before the Senate. If confirmed, Austin will be the first Black defense secretary. Austin is a former head of U.S. Central Command, and was on the board of the military technology company Raytheon after leaving the service. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 19, 2021

Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden's choice to lead the State Department, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday and appears to have passed with flying colors. As it turns out, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) may have been his biggest fan.

Graham, who called Blinken an "outstanding choice" and gave him an elbow bump during a break, asked a series of questions, many of which resulted in answers the senator found quite agreeable. For example, Blinkin doesn't "trust" the Taliban to police al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Afghanistan after a U.S. exit. He also considers Iran the world's worst sponsor of terrorism and said he concurs with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's assessment that China is committing genocide against the Uighurs and other religious and ethnic minorities. That last point reportedly left Graham "positively gushing."

If the friendly exchange was any indication, Blinken won't have much trouble getting confirmed, but the bipartisanship on display did have receive from sharp criticism from supporters of non-interventionist policy. Tim O'Donnell

See More Speed Reads