Senate GOP warns Biden on Cabinet picks as some Democrats push for more liberal choices

What may delay deliberations additional: President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede, coupled with Republicans’ reluctance to say Biden is the winner, which means few them are prepared to interact over the President-elect’s choices or maintain courtesy conferences as Democrats are starting to do.

As Biden strikes shortly to fill key slots — starting from well being to schooling to protection — lawmakers are warning who they might settle for and who they would not.

“I think he has made some very good choices,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, informed CNN on Wednesday. “I’d like to see some strong progressives on the team.”

Others made clear that Biden ought to make bolder picks if their celebration wins the 2 Georgia Senate races in January and takes management of the chamber.

“If we win the Senate, then I do think the administration should be open to more aggressive appointments or rather appointments who would support a more aggressive agenda to help working families,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mentioned, warning Biden to not identify nominees with “an austerity mindset.”

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“I think it’s one of the most simply damaging things that could happen to the Democratic Party that would absolutely imperil us in 2022 is if we had a bunch of austerity people, or an austerity strategy and austerity mindset,” the New York Democrat informed CNN.

Biden has a sophisticated balancing act by searching for to appease the left whereas coping with Republicans within the Senate who’re doubtless to withstand a lot of his nominees — like Neera Tanden, the pinnacle of the liberal suppose tank Center for American Progress, who was chosen by Biden to serve as the subsequent White House finances director. Her nomination has sparked the ire of Republicans, a lot of whom she has attacked on Twitter through the years, warning Biden to not identify future nominees to positions with an analogous ideological bent.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the Senate majority whip, mentioned that pushback from the GOP over the Tanden decide needs to be “a warning signal” to Biden — particularly if Republicans win one of many two Georgia runoff races that will guarantee they maintain the bulk within the new Congress.

“If things go our way in Georgia and we’re in the majority, then I would expect a fairly high level of consultation,” Thune mentioned. When requested if they might decide to scheduling votes on all of Biden’s nominees, Thune in the end mentioned: “We will take them case by case, if and when they come.”

Some Republicans say that Biden needs to be consulting with GOP leaders now, together with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — though they have not even acknowledged that Biden received the election.

“I would think the incoming administration would be wise to reach out to the leader,” mentioned Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican of Texas, who like McConnell hasn’t referred to Biden as “President-elect” but. “It’s not his job, it’s their job to make the case and to coordinate the confirmation process.” He mentioned the dealing with of the Tanden nomination “seems like amateur hour.”

On Wednesday, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who’s in line to be chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in a GOP majority, additionally issued a warning to Biden as he prepares to call an legal professional normal. He informed CNN that Biden ought to decide a nominee who will get “better treatment than what Sessions got,” referring to Trump’s first legal professional normal, Jeff Sessions, who was confirmed alongside celebration strains in 2017 after a bruising affirmation battle.

“It seems to me [it should be someone who has] got bipartisan support,” Grassley mentioned of Biden’s forthcoming decide to run the Justice Department. “And that wasn’t the way Sessions was treated.”

Typically, on the primary day of a brand new presidency, the Senate has confirmed some key Cabinet appointments. Trump noticed his protection secretary and homeland safety secretary confirmed on his first day, although that was fewer than his rapid predecessors.

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez , the highest Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, informed CNN he has urged the committee’s GOP chairman, Jim Risch of Idaho, to have hearings in early January for the nominees below their panel’s jurisdiction: Tony Blinken to move the State Department and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the US ambassador to the United Nations.

“I said to him, regardless of what happens in Georgia, we need to do this early,” Menendez mentioned Wednesday night. “He said, ‘I don’t disagree with you, and I agree with you that they’re national security positions.’ So I didn’t get a definitive, ‘Yes, we’re going to do it as soon as possible.’ But I have a feeling he’s well disposed at this point. We’ll see.”

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While Menendez mentioned “I would love to see” the nominees confirmed on January 20 after Biden’s inauguration, Risch has refused to interact in regards to the nominees. Asked twice in regards to the nominees this week, Risch waved away a CNN reporter and would not take questions.

Many Republicans have proven little resistance to date to some different key choices, together with Janet Yellen to move the Treasury Department and Alejandro Mayorkas to run the Department of Homeland Security. And when requested about Avril Haines, Biden’s decide as director of nationwide intelligence, appearing Senate Intelligence Chairman Marco Rubio had little opinion about her alternative.

“I don’t know much about it — so I haven’t had a chance to do any of the work on it,” Rubio mentioned Wednesday of the Haines nomination. “We’ll wait for the paperwork to come in.”

Privately, Democrats are lobbying the Biden workforce to make some key choices. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black chief in Congress, is urging Biden to choose Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio to serve as agriculture secretary as he and others want to add more African-Americans to the Cabinet.

But Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, informed CNN he has urged Biden’s prime adviser, Ted Kaufman, to choose former Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp for the spot.

“She didn’t ask me to do it,” Tester mentioned of his lobbying for Heitkamp. “But I think she’d be good.”

Some doable Biden nominees are already producing opposition from main liberals in Congress.

“That’s a hard no,” Ocasio-Cortez informed CNN of the opportunity of Biden naming former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to run the Transportation Department. “I hope the administration would know better.”

Moreover, some at the moment in Congress are within the combine for key spots. Sen. Tom Udall, who’s retiring on the finish of the 12 months, is within the operating to move the Interior Department, together with Rep. Deb Haaland, a fellow Democrat from New Mexico.

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“I got my name in for Interior,” Udall informed CNN on Wednesday. “We need a good Westerner in there.”

Biden has signaled an unwillingness to choose a nominee from Congress, given the slender margins in each the House and the Senate within the subsequent two years. Asked about that reluctance, Warren — herself seen at one level as a doable Cabinet alternative — did not appear to object.

“The President-elect faces a lot of very difficult decisions,” Warren mentioned Wednesday. “I understand that. What I care most about is that he is able to get the work done that the American people need.”

If Democrats sweep each Georgia seats through the January 5 runoff election, they will management the Senate majority below a 50-50 Senate, which means they might afford to lose no Democrats if the GOP unites in opposition to a nominee. But if Republicans maintain the bulk, then Biden would want GOP help and hope that Republican chairmen would schedule votes and hearings on the important thing nominations.

Tanden, for one, may face a troublesome highway to affirmation. Her nomination to run the White House’s Office of Management and Budget runs via two committees, together with the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is in line to chair below a GOP majority.

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Portman informed CNN he would maintain a listening to for Tanden to be the subsequent White House finances director, however he urged Biden to withdraw the decide.

“They should reconsider her nomination given her partisan background and her very liberal background for this particular job,” Portman mentioned.

Asked why her alternative was completely different on condition that the GOP-led Senate confirmed Mick Mulvaney — a former member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus — to the identical job below Trump, Portman mentioned: “It might not have been had there been Democratic control of the Senate.”

Portman’s panel has joint jurisdiction over the nomination with the Senate Budget Committee, which is predicted to be chaired by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham below a GOP majority. Graham has been non-committal about transferring ahead with a listening to on Tanden.

“Let’s see what happens with the Electoral College,” he mentioned, referring to when electors meet of their state capitols on December 14 to make Biden the official winner.

CNN’s Lauren Koenig contributed to this story.

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