GOP Objects to Biden Nominees 12/02 06:16
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet picks are quickly
running into the political reality of a narrowly controlled Senate that will
leave the new Democratic administration dependent on rival Republicans to get
Under leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican senators will hold great sway
in confirming Biden's nominees regardless of which party holds the majority
after runoff elections in January. Biden will have little room to maneuver and
few votes to spare.
As Biden rolled out his economic team Tuesday --- after introducing his
national security team last week --- he asked the Senate to give his nominees
prompt review, saying they "deserve and expect nothing less."
But that seems unlikely. Republicans are swiftly signaling that they're
eager to set the terms of debate and exact a price for their votes. Biden's
choice for budget chief, Neera Tanden, was instantly rejected as "radioactive."
His secretary of state nominee, Antony Blinken, quickly ran into resistance
from GOP senators blasting his record amid their own potential 2024 White House
Even as most Republican senators still refuse to publicly acknowledge
President Donald Trump's defeat, they are launching new battles for the Biden
era. The GOP is suspended between an outgoing president it needs to keep close
--- Trump can still make or break careers with a single tweet --- and the new
one they are unsure how to approach. Almost one month since the Nov. 3
election, McConnell and Biden have not yet spoken.
"The disagreement, disorientation and confusion among Republicans will make
them inclined to unite in opposition," said Ramesh Ponnuru, a visiting fellow
at the American Enterprise Institute, during a Tuesday briefing.
"They don't necessarily know what they're for, but they can all agree they
don't like Neera Tanden."
A new president often runs into trouble with at least a few Cabinet or
administrative nominees, individuals who rub the Senate the wrong way and fail
to win enough votes for confirmation or are forced to withdraw after grueling
Trump's nominees faced enormous resistance from Senate Democrats, who used
their minority-party status to slow-walk confirmation for even lower-level
positions. It's been an escalation of the Senate's procedural battles for at
least a decade.
But the battles ahead are particularly sharp as Biden tries to stand up an
administration during the COVID-19 crisis and economic freefall, rebuilding a
government after Trump chased away many career professionals and appointed
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer praised the expertise Biden's choices
will bring to government. He scoffed at Republicans for complaining about
Tanden's penchant for sharp tweets after four years of Trump's endless Twitter
barbs that GOP senators often tried to ignore.
"After what all we went through over the past four years, I would expect
that almost all of President-elect Biden's nominees would be widely
acceptable," Schumer said from the Senate floor.
Instead, he warned, the "switch is starting to flip" into Republican
To be sure, some key Biden choices will have an easier path to confirmation.
Janet Yellen, who would become the nation's first female treasury secretary,
drew few public complaints from Republicans. Many had voted to confirm her in
2014 as Federal Reserve chair.
Democrats have their own battles ahead. Biden faces the daunting task of
keeping the party's centrist and progressive factions from splintering as he
tries to put his team in place.
Republicans now hold a 50-48 advantage in the Senate, but if Democrats win
both Georgia seats in the Jan. 5 runoff elections, they would wrest control,
since the vice president, which will be Kamala Harris, becomes a tie-breaker.
The nomination fights will serve as an early indicator of the approach
Republicans take toward Biden as they find their political footing in a
Trump continues to wield great influence over the party as he is being eased
out, and senators, in particular, need to keep him close for the Georgia runoff
The president is planning to visit Georgia on Saturday, where two GOP
senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, failed to clear the 50% threshold to
win reelection in November. Perdue faces Democrat Jon Ossoff and Loeffler faces
Democrat Raphael Warnock in a state that flipped to support Biden.
McConnell has said almost nothing about Biden's nominees or next year's
agenda as he continues to give Trump the time and space to challenge election
results in court cases that have delivered few victories.
Instead, he's letting other Senate Republicans, particularly those seen as
having White House ambitions, make names for themselves. GOP Sens. Tom Cotton,
Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley, among others, have all hurled pointed complaints
about Biden's picks.
Despite Trump's defeat, Republicans in Congress may have little incentive to
work with Biden. They performed better than Trump, retaining many House and
Senate seats they were expected to lose. One lesson Republicans learned from
the November election may be to keep doing what they've been doing.
McConnell gave a nod toward what's ahead after GOP senators met Tuesday by
conference call, forced to abandon their traditional sit-down lunches as the
COVID-19 crisis surges and threatens to further disrupt the Capitol.
McConnell talked about finishing the remaining few weeks of "this
government" and "the new administration" to come.