Biden urges Senate to quickly confirm key Cabinet picks


President-elect Joe Biden 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 Austin, 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. 

“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 Yellen for Treasury secretary, Antony Blinken for secretary of State and Alejandro Mayorkas 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.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Antony Blinken Janet Yellen Joe Biden Lloyd Austin

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