Trump’s nominees may face roadblocks

Senators in both parties say President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress MORE’s Cabinet picks could be in for a rocky confirmation process next year.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton have been flagged as problematic picks because of their hawkish policy views and, in the case of Giuliani, outside business dealings.

Both have been mentioned as possible nominees to head the State Department.


They face staunch opposition from Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Health Care: 50 million coronavirus vaccines given | Pfizer news | Biden health nominees Rand Paul criticized for questioning of transgender health nominee Haley isolated after Trump fallout MORE (R-Ky.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who says other Republican lawmakers have expressed concern.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), who backed Trump in the primary, is a possibility to head the Interior Department. Some lawmakers question whether she would be up to speed on policy and note she has a penchant for going off script — something that Cabinet members are urged not to do. 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who Trump said earlier this year would make a great attorney general, has the “Bridgegate” scandal hanging over his head. Two former associates of the governor were convicted earlier this month of fraud, conspiracy and a civil rights violation after closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge in 2013 in an act of political retribution.

Trump replaced Christie as head of his transition team with Vice President-elect Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceCPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' The Memo: CPAC fires starting gun on 2024 MORE, however, and it appears unlikely the New Jersey governor will receive a Cabinet post. 

Giuliani and Bolton face immediate problems because of their vocal support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“I’ll do whatever I can to stop either, either Giuliani or Bolton, because I don’t think that they support the president-elect’s foreign policy views,” Paul told reporters Wednesday.

Paul noted that Giuliani was an outspoken proponent of former President George W. Bush’s Iraq policy and backed his aggressive foreign policy stances.

“There are quotes showing him being an unabashed supporter of the Iraq War. I think there are quotes that actually are similar to Bolton’s quotes on bombing Iran,” he added.

In the 2008 Republican presidential primary, Giuliani and Paul’s father, then-Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), repeatedly clashed over foreign policy.

Paul said “there are several members of the [Senate Republican] caucus who are uncomfortable with Bolton and Giuliani.”

On the Senate floor, Trump can lose only two GOP votes if Democrats are unified against a nominee. 

Bolton argued in an interview last year that the decision to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was correct, and expressed support in 2011 for toppling Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, which later created a power vacuum.

During Bush’s second term, the Senate refused to confirm Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. He was later tapped for the post via recess appointment. 

Trump’s picks will have a lower hurdle to clear compared with most of President Obama’s Cabinet selections. That’s because Democrats changed the rules in 2013 to allow executive branch and most judicial nominees to clear with simple-majority votes. Before then, nominees needed 60 votes to overcome filibusters.

Paul’s opposition alone will make it difficult to move either Giuliani or Bolton to the floor if nominated to serve as secretary of State.

Republicans control 10 seats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which has jurisdiction over nominees to the State Department, and Democrats have nine seats on the panel.

If Paul votes no, the committee would not be able to report Giuliani or Bolton with a favorable recommendation, though it would still be able to discharge the nomination to the floor.

Other Senate Republicans argued Wednesday that Trump should be given wide latitude to choose his Cabinet.

“I tend to give the president deference on people he chooses,” said Arizona Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFormer GOP lawmaker: Republican Party 'engulfed in lies and fear' Grassley to vote against Tanden nomination Klain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' MORE (R), who did not support Trump during the campaign.

Several Republicans, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCindy McCain planning 'intimate memoir' of life with John McCain Trump-McConnell rift divides GOP donors Arkansas state senator says he's leaving Republican Party MORE (Ariz.), said they would back Giuliani or Bolton.

“I would support either one of them,” said McCain.

“They both have a lot of experience,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). “I’d be inclined to be supportive once I hear some of their views.”

But Paul and other Republican lawmakers said their colleague Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerIt's time for Biden's Cuba GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand MORE (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would have a much easier time winning confirmation if nominated as secretary of State. His name has been floated in recent days.

Giuliani faces scrutiny over his business dealings, which could drag out any confirmation process.

His firm, Giuliani Partners, has done work for TransCanada, the builder of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, the government of Qatar and TriGlobal Strategic Ventures, a company that helps facilitate business deals in the former Soviet Union.

Trump, who has never held elected office and ran for president as an outsider, is expected to nominate several Cabinet officers from outside the Washington establishment, raising concerns among some Senate Republicans about what might pop up during confirmation hearings.

“Hopefully they don’t nominate anybody who can’t be confirmed for something other than an ideological reason,” said one Republican senator.

Some Republicans worry that messy confirmation fights could slow Trump’s momentum during his first 100 days in office and undermine high-priority policy fights, such as the repeal of ­ObamaCare.

Democrats say if the president-elect taps Giuliani or Bolton, no one should expect any help from their side of the aisle.

“I think Bolton and Giuliani would have a tough time getting to 51. Some Republicans are going to have a difficult time swallowing some unabashed interventionist who’s unapologetic of the Iraq War,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Minimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster New rule shakes up Senate Armed Services subcommittees MORE (Conn.), a Democratic member of the Foreign Relations panel.

Trump’s pick to replace the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court could face a bruising confirmation process, especially because that nominee can be filibustered and would likely need 60 votes. 

Many Democrats are still furious that Republicans refused to give Obama’s nominee to the court, Merrick Garland, a well-regarded judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, a hearing in 2016.

“After the unprecedented and disrespectful treatment of Merrick Garland — a moderate judge who should have been quickly confirmed — the committee will pay very close attention to proposed nominees to ensure the fundamental constitutional rights of Americans are protected,” Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinProgressive support builds for expanding lower courts Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill What exactly are uber-woke educators teaching our kids? MORE 

(Calif.), who will take over as the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, pledged in a statement Wednesday. 

Sens. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsManchin flexes muscle in 50-50 Senate Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' Ocasio-Cortez targets Manchin over Haaland confirmation MORE (R-Ala.), the only senator to endorse Trump during the primary, and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFive takeaways from CPAC 2021 Trump wins CPAC straw poll with 55 percent 'SNL' envisions Fauci as game show host, giving winners vaccines MORE (R-Texas), who finished second to the real estate mogul in the presidential primary, have been mentioned as possibilities to become attorney general. 

Senators usually face easier confirmation hearings and votes, helped by their personal relationships and the knowledge that if rejected for administrative posts, they would stick around the chamber, possibly looking to settle scores.

Sessions is a staunch conservative and well liked by his colleagues. Cruz has fewer friends in the Senate but his tendency to ruffle feathers might make colleagues eager to see him leave Congress.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchHow President Biden can hit a home run Mellman: What happened after Ginsburg? Bottom line MORE (R-Utah) praised both Sessions and Cruz as “valued colleagues” and said he’s “going to try to support whoever [Trump] picks.”

Palin, McCain’s running mate in 2008, failed to earn any ringing endorsements from senators who were asked about her potential nomination to head the Interior Department.

“I’m not going to comment on that. I have an answer but I’m not going to share it,” said Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeBiden seeks to walk fine line with Syria strike Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Overnight Defense: New Senate Armed Services chairman talks Pentagon policy nominee, Afghanistan, more | Biden reads report on Khashoggi killing | Austin stresses vaccine safety in new video MORE (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.