The the festivities surrounding the inauguration of Donald Trump continue in the nation’s capitol, the Senate went back to work. They confirmed the first Cabinet member of the new administration Friday. Gen James Mattis has been confirmed for the position of Secretary of Defense.
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New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was the only “no” vote.
The other cabinet nominees will come in the the coming days, and maybe weeks. The Senate may vote on Gen. John Kelly for homeland security secretary Friday, too. Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, who has been nominated for CIA director, should get his vote on Monday.
The Trump transition team has hoped for seven or more approvals. Trump wants as much of his cabinet in place as soon as possible, but Democrats are standing in the way of many of his nominations.
When Barack Obama took office in 2008, he had seven cabinet members in place for the transition.
Republicans control both the House and Senate, virtually guaranteeing Trump’s nominees clear passage. Yet Democrats can use tools at their disposal to slow this process down.
Likewise, there are tools that can speed up appointments. If the vote in the Senate is unanimous, the governing body may skip the laborious procedural steps otherwise needed.
Mattis and Kelly are hardly controversial choices for their respective positions. Mattis had not been retired from active duty for the requisite period mandated for those hoping to serve as Secretary of Defense, yet that provision was waived.
Mitch McConnell opened the debate on the Senate floor Friday with a scorching indictment of the Democrats’ stonewalling.
“We need to confirm a new [CIA] director today,” McConnell said. “We need to confirm the rest of the Cabinet as quickly as we can.”
Yet Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal stood opposed to Pompeo’s confirmation.
Their offices released a joint statement about their opposition Friday. “No CIA director in history has ever been confirmed on Inauguration Day. The importance of the position of CIA director, especially in these dangerous times, demands that the nomination be thoroughly vetted, questioned and debated.”