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Biden urges Senate to quickly confirm key Cabinet picks

Biden urges Senate to quickly confirm key Cabinet picks
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President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenObama: Ensuring democracy 'continues to work effectively' keeps me 'up at night' New Jersey landlords prohibited from asking potential tenants about criminal records Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE on Friday called on the Senate to confirm key Cabinet officials as close to Inauguration Day as possible, arguing there is greater urgency given the economic strain of the coronavirus pandemic and the violence at the Capitol this week.

The Senate has yet to take action on any of Biden's picks for his Cabinet, and the president-elect is poised to take office Jan. 20 without a single agency leader confirmed to their role. Democrats have pressed for holding hearings before the inauguration. At least one hearing, for Defense secretary nominee Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Pentagon pulling 'certain forces and capabilities,' including air defenses, from Middle East US officials: Iranian ships changing course away from Venezuela MORE, is set for Jan. 19.

"It's my expectation and hope that the Senate will now move to confirm these nominees promptly and fairly," Biden said in Wilmington, Del., at an event unveiling his picks for Commerce and Labor secretary and the head of the Small Business Administration. 

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"That is especially the case for the nominees of secretary of State, Defense, Treasury and Homeland Security. I nominated them back in November," he continued. "Given what our country has been through the last four years — the last few days — given the threats and the risks in this world, they should be confirmed as close to Jan. 20 as possible. There should be no vacancies at State, Defense, Treasury and Homeland Security. We have no time to lose with regard to the entire team."

The Senate Armed Services Committee announced Thursday that it will hold a confirmation hearing for Austin, a retired four-star Army general, to be Defense secretary the day before Biden is sworn in.

Biden has already named nominees for every other Cabinet post. His picks of Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenOn The Money: Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle | White House rules out gas tax hike Inflation concerns spark new political fights Irish finance minister seeks compromise on global minimum tax MORE for Treasury secretary, Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenKim says North Korea needs to be 'prepared' for 'confrontation' with US The Senate just passed the next Apollo program Young Turks founder on Democratic establishment: 'They lie nonstop' MORE for secretary of State and Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasCanadian ambassador calls for close coordination in handling of US border Harris signals a potential breakthrough in US-Mexico cooperation DeSantis: Florida officers to respond to 'border security crisis' in Texas, Arizona MORE to lead the Department of Homeland Security were among the first to be announced.

The president-elect cited the urgency to confirm those picks given the events of recent days.

On Wednesday, a pro-Trump mob overwhelmed police at the U.S. Capitol and breached the complex. Lawmakers, the vice president and journalists were evacuated or ordered to shelter in place, and the ensuing mayhem resulted in four rioters and a Capitol Police officer dying.

The December jobs report was released earlier Friday and showed the U.S. economy lost 140,000 jobs last month, the first reported losses since April, as the unemployment rate remained steady at 6.7 percent.

The report is a troubling sign that the economy is still in a rut as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. Even as the first batch of vaccines have been administered, cases and infection rates continue to rise. Biden has said his team will push for another relief package upon taking office.