GOP warns Biden nominees on hold until after impeachment

Greg Nash

Top Senate Republicans said Wednesday that there are unlikely to be additional votes on Biden Cabinet picks until after the impeachment trial.

Republicans are pointing to the schedule as the reason for the holdup, arguing that Democrats chose to take up the budget resolution, which will eat up the Senate’s schedule until at least Friday.

The Senate is then poised to start former President Trump’s second impeachment trial next week. Senators are hoping the trial moves fairly quickly but haven’t locked themselves into a timeline.

“We’re not intentionally trying to slow it down but the Democrats have chosen the agenda, and they’ve chosen to do the budget resolution, so if there’s a delay in nominations, it’s because of their choice,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Cornyn added that Democrats also won’t be able to confirm nominees during the impeachment trial. Though the trial won’t start until the afternoon, Republicans have warned that they won’t provide consent to allow for additional legislation or nominations to be taken up during the morning.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) pointed to Monday as a potential day when, with cooperation, an additional nominee could be confirmed. Tom Vilsack, Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Agriculture, was one pick Thune said there was wide bipartisan support for.

But otherwise Thune said that while trial negotiations are ongoing, “I think most of our members feel like until impeachment is done other business probably shouldn’t get done now.”

“There might be a window like on Monday before impeachment kicks in on Tuesday, when we can do a couple that are teed up. But I think once the trial starts … it’s probably unlikely,” Thune said about additional confirmations during the trial.

Thune also confirmed that absent GOP consent additional nominations will not be taken up on the Senate floor during the budget debate.

Biden has so far gotten six nominees confirmed including votes this week on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Several others are getting committee hearings or committee votes this week including Vilsack, Labor Secretary nominee Marty Walsh, and Gina Raimondo, his pick to lead the Department of Commerce.

Biden was only able to get one confirmation on his first day in office — a historically sluggish pace.

He’s currently tied with Trump, who had six nominees confirmed by Feb. 1. But if Republicans put confirmations in limbo until after the impeachment trial ends he’ll fall behind.

Trump had 11 nominees confirmed by Feb. 13, 2017, a marker for how many Biden gets confirmed by the end of next week.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters that he will try to set up a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland, Biden’s attorney general nominee, in the Judiciary Committee for Feb. 8, squeezing it in before the trial starts Tuesday. 

Once the Senate passes its organizing resolution, Durbin will officially chair the committee. He had previously tried to get Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to schedule a hearing for Monday, but Graham had rejected the request.

“I would do it before the impeachment trial,” Durbin said.

Durbin said that he hadn’t directly been told that Republicans were going to block additional Senate floor votes on nominations until after the impeachment trial.

“Of course, we want the Cabinet in place. We cannot ignore what happened January 6. This day, more than any others should be a reminder to every member of the Senate and the House of what we lost on that day. And we just can’t ignore that reality and the impeachment that’s looming before the United States Senate,” he added.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Charles Schumer Dick Durbin Donald Trump Gina Raimondo John Cornyn John Thune Lindsey Graham Marty Walsh Merrick Garland Mitch McConnell Pete Buttigieg Steny Hoyer Tom Vilsack

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