Confirmation hearings set for Yellen, Mayorkas, and Blinken

January 13, 2021: Janet Yellen, Alejandro Mayorkas, and Tony Blinken will have confirmation hearings on Jan. 19.

Prior to taking office on January 20, 2021, President-elect Joe Biden (D) and his team must prepare for the transition between presidential administrations, including selecting senior White House staff and appointees to top government positions.

In 2020, there were 1,472 government positions subject to presidential appointment: 1,118 positions required Senate confirmation and 354 did not. The new administration is also responsible for filling thousands of other positions across the federal government, including in operations and policy. Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking potential Cabinet nominees, appointments, and news related to the Biden presidential transition.

Appointments and Nominations

Samantha Power, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development 

Biden announced on Wednesday that he had selected Samantha Power, a former ambassador to the United Nations from 2013 to 2017, as his nominee for administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. He also elevated the position to the National Security Council (NSC).

Power was a special assistant to the president and senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights from 2009 to 2013 in the Obama administration. She previously worked as an international correspondent and the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

News

  • The Biden Transition said on Tuesday that Biden planned to appoint career officials as interim agency heads during the confirmation process for his nominees.
  • In addition to Lloyd Austin’s previously announced confirmation hearing, three more confirmation hearings were scheduled for Jan. 19
    • Janet Yellen, nominee for secretary of the Treasury, will appear before the Senate Finance Committee.
    • Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee for secretary of homeland security, will appear before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
    • Tony Blinken, nominee for secretary of state, will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
  • Three members of the Senate Armed Services Committee—Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)—said they would vote against granting a waiver to Ret. Army General Lloyd Austin to allow him to serve as secretary of defense after leaving military service less than seven years ago.
  • The Washington Post reported that Biden is likely to select Gary Gensler, a former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission during the Obama administration, as his pick for chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Transition in Context: How many Trump and Obama Cabinet nominees withdrew?

Two of President Donald Trump’s (R) Cabinet secretary nominees withdrew from consideration after being nominated:

  • Andrew Puzder for secretary of labor: Politico reported that Puzder did not have sufficient Republican support to be confirmed.
  • Ronny Jackson for secretary of veterans affairs: The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee released a list of allegations against Jackson, including inappropriate medication prescription and drunk driving. Jackson denied the allegations.

Three of President Barack Obama’s (D) Cabinet secretary nominees withdrew:

  • Bill Richardson for secretary of commerce: Richardson was under investigation for his potential involvement in improperly giving a state contract to a donor. The Department of Justice ultimately did not pursue any charges.
  • Judd Gregg for secretary of commerce: Gregg, a Republican, said he had irresolvable conflicts with Obama regarding his economic stimulus plan.
  • Tom Daschle for secretary of health and human services: Daschle failed to pay approximately $140,000 in back taxes. He withdrew because he said he did not have the full faith of the American people.

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About the author

Emily Aubert

Emily Aubert is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

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