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Biden's Cabinet gradually confirmed by Senate

Biden's Cabinet gradually confirmed by Senate
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Almost a week after being sworn in, President BidenJoe BidenTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot FireEye finds evidence Chinese hackers exploited Microsoft email app flaw since January Biden officials to travel to border amid influx of young migrants MORE is seeing his Cabinet start to come together.

The Senate confirmed Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenSenators introduce bill creating technology partnerships to compete with China Overnight Health Care: Experts warn US risks delaying 'normal' summer | Alabama GOP governor extends mask mandate | Senate votes to take up relief bill Republicans demand arms embargo on Iran after militia strikes in Iraq MORE, one of Biden’s longtime advisers, as secretary of State in a 78-22 vote Tuesday, making him the president’s fourth nominee to be approved by the upper chamber. 

The Senate has also confirmed Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenDebt to break WWII record by 2031 Inflation debate heats up over Biden relief bill Biden cautious in making Trump tax returns decision MORE, Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels Biden called off second military target in Syria minutes before strike: report Republicans blast Pentagon policy nominee over tweets, Iran nuclear deal MORE and Director of National Intelligence Avril HainesAvril HainesThe intelligence community must evolve with the information age Duckworth calls for Russian bounties intelligence to be declassified Intelligence official says Khashoggi report 'obviously' will challenge Saudi relationship MORE over the past six days in broad bipartisan votes.

But Biden is still missing permanent officials to helm the key departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as the CIA — let alone deputy positions across government that also need Senate-confirmed officials.

Historically, presidents have seen their senior team confirmed more quickly than Biden. Former Presidents George W. Bush, Obama and Trump each had multiple secretaries confirmed on the day of their inauguration, while Biden had just one, Haines, who was confirmed last Wednesday evening.

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“It’s lagging if you go back to the three previous administrations,” said Kathryn Tenpas, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who tracks administration staffing and turnover rates.

The vacancies in Biden’s administration come at a time when the federal government is contending with multiple crises. Biden has installed acting officials across government in order to keep agencies running as the president waits for his personnel to be confirmed to permanent positions.

Tenpas said that there are some 4,000 political appointments across government, between 1,200 and 1,300 of which require Senate confirmation, meaning that Biden has been able to put many officials in place despite a lack of confirmed agency heads at this stage.

“There are Biden people in each of these departments now,” Tenpas said, but she noted that agencies are limited in what they can execute without a confirmed leader. “If there’s not a leader at the top, it’s harder to plan for the future.”  

Additional votes are expected in the coming days. The Senate Homeland Security Committee advanced the nomination of Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasMSNBC's Jacob Soboroff doesn't let falling equipment stop his report Republicans call for hearing on Biden's handling of border surge Pavlich: Mayorkas' reckless invitation ensures border crisis is about to explode MORE for Homeland Security secretary on Tuesday despite a request by some Republicans to delay the nomination, meaning a full Senate vote on his nomination is likely later this week.

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Former national security officials from Republican and Democratic administrations have called for Mayorkas’s swift confirmation, given the current security challenges facing the country.

Transportation Secretary nominee Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Increased security on Capitol Hill amid QAnon's March 4 date Biden to meet with bipartisan lawmakers on infrastructure The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Lawmakers face Capitol threat as senators line up votes for relief bill MORE and Commerce Secretary nominee Gina RaimondoGina RaimondoRaimondo has won confirmation, but the fight to restrict export technology to China continues The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate Dems face unity test; Tanden nomination falls On The Money: Tanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief | Relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority | Senate confirms Biden's picks for Commerce, top WH economist MORE have sat for hearings, while Energy Secretary nominee Jennifer GranholmJennifer GranholmEnergy Dept to restart Obama-era loans to renewable energy companies Granholm calls for Texas grid to weatherize, connect to other grids OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden returns to Obama-era greenhouse gas calculation | House passes major public lands package | Biden administration won't defend Trump-era relaxation of bird protections MORE, Housing and Urban Development Secretary nominee Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeWe need to lay the foundation for meaningful housing policy change Black Caucus members lobby Biden to tap Shalanda Young for OMB head Sanders votes against Biden USDA nominee Vilsack MORE, and Linda Thomas-GreenfieldLinda Thomas-GreenfieldAmerica's new multilateralism CBC 'unequivocally' endorses Shalanda Young for White House budget chief Blinken speaks with Ethiopian leader about human rights concerns in Tigray MORE, nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, are each scheduled to appear before lawmakers this week.

The effort to install officials across government was likely impacted by the delay in ascertainment of Biden’s win by the General Services Administration (GSA) last year as Trump disputed the election results, experts say. The FBI began working with the incoming administration to process background checks after the GSA formally acknowledged Biden’s victory in late November, nearly three weeks after the election.
 
In some cases, the process is on hold over paperwork for nominees who were announced later than others. A Judiciary Committee aide said the panel is awaiting a response to paperwork from Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandPolitics in the Department of Justice can be a good thing What's worse, violence on the left or the right? It's a dangerous question The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Lawmakers face Capitol threat as senators line up votes for relief bill MORE, Biden’s nominee for Attorney General, that was sent to him on Jan. 7, the day Biden announced he would be nominated.

A Senate Intelligence Committee aide similarly said lawmakers are awaiting paperwork from William BurnsWilliam BurnsCIA formed task force to address suspected microwave attacks The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Ahead: One-shot vax, easing restrictions, fiscal help Biden's picks face peril in 50-50 Senate MORE, Biden’s choice to helm CIA, and that a nomination hearing was likely to happen in early February. Biden announced Burns as his nominee for CIA director on Jan. 11.

Meanwhile, an aide to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions suggested that a hearing for Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Health Care: Biden slams Texas, Mississippi for lifting coronavirus restrictions: 'Neanderthal thinking' | Senate panel splits along party lines on Becerra |Over 200K sign up for ACA plans during Biden special enrollment period Senate panel splits along party lines on Becerra GOP targets Manchin, Sinema, Kelly on Becerra MORE, Biden’s nominee to lead HHS, would not be scheduled until after the upper chamber came to an agreement on power-sharing in the 50-50 Senate.

“The committee is ready to go with an aggressive schedule of hearings once the Senate organizes, with nominations being a top priority,” the HELP committee aide said.

The organizing agreement had been held up as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Klain on Harris breaking tie: 'Every time she votes, we win' How to pass legislation in the Senate without eliminating the filibuster MORE (R-Ky.) sought a protection for the legislative filibuster, though he relented Monday evening.

Until an agreement is reached, Republicans remain in control of the committees even though Democrats maintain a slim control of the chamber with Vice President Harris serving as a tie-breaking vote.

The nominations may move more quickly once Democrats assume control of various panels. While some of Biden’s nominees have received bipartisan support, others, including Becerra, have prompted pushback from Republicans.

In addition to balancing work on confirmations, the Senate is also poised to take up an impeachment trial for Trump in about two weeks which will take away time from work on Biden’s agenda. Biden is also negotiating with Congress over his $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal.

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerRon Johnson forces reading of 628-page Senate coronavirus relief bill on floor Senate panel splits along party lines on Becerra House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade MORE (D-N.Y.) has expressed confidence that the upper chamber can balance its work.

“As I have been saying all along, the Senate will deal with three things simultaneously: nominations — we’re working to confirm more nominees this week; a fair impeachment trial; and delivering emergency COVID relief,” Schumer told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

Nathanial Weixel contributed reporting.