Author

Emily Aubert

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

Ballotpedia’s Weekly Transition Tracker: February 20-26, 2021

President Joe Biden (D) and his team have been preparing for the transition between presidential administrations since the election, 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 administration.

  • The Senate confirmed Linda Thomas-Greenfield to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday by a vote of 78-20. All 20 no votes came from Republicans.
  • The Senate also confirmed Tom Vilsack to serve as secretary of agriculture on Tuesday by a vote of 92-7.
    • Six Republicans voted against his confirmation: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska).
    • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also voted against Vilsack, marking the first time a Democrat or independent who caucuses with Democrats voted against a Biden nominee.
  • The Senate confirmed Jennifer Granholm for secretary of energy by a vote of 64-35 on Thursday. All 35 no votes came from Republicans.
    • Her nomination received the second-most opposition of Biden’s nominees so far, following the confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas for secretary of homeland security by a vote of 56-43.
    • Granholm, who was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday evening, is the tenth member of Biden’s Cabinet to be confirmed. 
  • Four Cabinet-rank nominees had confirmation hearings this week:
    • The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing for Katherine Tai for U.S. trade representative.
    • The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held two days of confirmation hearings for Debra Haaland for secretary of the interior.
    • The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing for Xavier Becerra for secretary of health and human services. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions also held a hearing for Becerra.
    • The Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland for attorney general.
  • The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship advanced Isabel Guzman’s nomination for administrator of the Small Business Administration by a vote of 15-5.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said he would support Debra Haaland’s nomination for secretary of the interior, indicating she could have enough support to be confirmed along party lines, according to The New York Times.
  • The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Senate Budget Committee postponed planned votes on Neera Tanden’s nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday. When asked about the delay, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on Wednesday, “It didn’t look like she had the votes.”

Executive Actions

  • Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday that lifted a ban on certain types of immigrant visas, revoking an executive order by President Donald Trump (R). Biden also revoked Trump executive orders on agency rulemaking, government review of certain welfare programs, and the architecture of federal buildings.
  • Biden signed another executive order on Wednesday calling for the review of global supply chains for computer chips, large-capacity batteries used in electric vehicles, pharmaceuticals and related products, and critical minerals.
  • Biden issued a proclamation on Monday to memorialize the more than 500,000 Americans who have died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He ordered the flag to be flown at half-staff until February 26.

Other News

  • Biden ordered airstrikes in Syria on buildings used by Iran-backed militant groups, marking the first known use of military force by his administration. The Pentagon said it was a retaliatory strike in response to attacks in Iraq on American and allied personnel.
  • Biden is traveling to Texas on Friday in his first visit to a major disaster site as president. He will meet with local leaders to discuss relief efforts and promote coronavirus vaccinations. On Feb. 20, Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Texas, giving  77 of the state’s 254 counties access to federal assistance.
  • Biden announced his nominees to fill three vacancies on the nine-member U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors on Wednesday: Anton Hajjar, Amber McReynolds, and Ron Stroman. The other six members include four Republicans and two Democrats. If the Senate confirms Biden’s nominees, Democrats will have enough votes to remove Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee.  
  • Drew Tipton, a federal judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, granted a preliminary injunction blocking the Biden administration’s 100-day moratorium on deportations. The injunction applies to all states. Tipton is a Trump appointee. 
  • Biden held his first bilateral meeting as president with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday. The meeting took place virtually.
  • The Biden administration adjusted the Paycheck Protection Program’s guidelines effective Feb. 24. Under the new rules, sole proprietors will be eligible to receive more aid. For companies with 20 or more employees, there will be a 14-day freeze on loans.

Transition in Context: National Security Council

The National Security Council was established by the National Security Act of 1947 to provide the president with advice from and coordination between national security and foreign policy leaders and experts. The president is the chair of council.

In the Biden administration, the following individuals regularly attend National Security Council meetings:

The counsel to the president and legal advisor to the National Security Council are also invited to attend each meeting.

Other senior officials, including the COVID-19 response coordinator and special presidential envoy for climate, are invited to meetings when appropriate.

Transition in Context: Pace of Confirmations

The following chart compares the pace of Senate confirmations for the main Cabinet members—the 15 agency heads in the presidential line of succession—following the inaugurations of Presidents Barack Obama (D), Donald Trump (R), and Joe Biden (D). It does not include Cabinet-rank officials that vary by administration.

Thirty-six days after their respective inaugurations, Biden had 8 of these secretaries confirmed and Obama had 12. A thirteenth Obama Cabinet member—Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—was held over from the Bush administration. Trump had nine confirmed.

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders, advisers, and stakeholders said about Debra Haaland as the nominee for secretary of the interior. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held Haaland’s confirmation hearings from Feb. 23-24. The committee has not yet voted on her nomination.

  • “After our conversation, I’m deeply concerned with the Congresswoman’s support on several radical issues that will hurt Montana, our way of life, our jobs and rural America, including her support for the Green New Deal and President Biden. … I’m not convinced the Congresswoman can divorce her radical views and represent what’s best for Montana and all stakeholders in the West. Unless my concerns are addressed, I will block her confirmation.” – Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.)
  • “Deb Haaland’s experience and commitment to restoring the public trust and the mission of this important agency is a breath of fresh air after the last four years of her predecessors’ shameful neglect and outright mission abandonment. As the first-ever Native American to serve as Secretary, she will bring a new and necessary voice to the agency that is crucial to Oregon and all of America.” – Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
  • “Her vocal opposition to oil and gas production on federal lands will only encourage President Biden along the illegal and reckless path that he has begun. Representative Haaland must demonstrate that she will follow the law, protect the multiple uses of our public lands, and reject policies that will force energy workers into the unemployment line. I won’t support her nomination otherwise.” – Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
  • “I believe Congresswoman Haaland is uniquely qualified to serve as Secretary of Interior during this critical moment. As a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, she has built a strong reputation working with her colleagues as a seeker of solutions. Her bold leadership is what the Department of the Interior needs to tackle the monumental challenge of preserving the natural world around us for future generations.” – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.)

Transition in Context: Executive Orders in the First Month

The following table compares the number of executive orders issued by each of the four most recent presidents during his first month in office.

Biden has issued more executive orders during this time period than his three predecessors. Trump issued the most executive orders per year on average: 55.

What We’re Reading



Granholm confirmed as energy secretary by 64-35 vote

February 26, 2021: The Senate confirmed Jennifer Granholm for secretary of energy by a vote of 64-35 on Thursday.

President Joe Biden (D) and his team have been preparing for the transition between presidential administrations since the election, 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 administration.

  • The Senate confirmed Jennifer Granholm for secretary of energy by a vote of 64-35 on Thursday. All 35 no votes came from Republicans. Her nomination received the second-most opposition of Biden’s nominees so far, following the confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas for secretary of homeland security by a vote of 56-43. Granholm, who was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday evening, is the tenth member of Biden’s Cabinet to be confirmed. 
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider the nomination of Merrick Garland for attorney general on Monday.

News

  • Biden ordered airstrikes in Syria on buildings used by Iran-backed militant groups, marking the first known use of military force by his administration. The Pentagon said it was a retaliatory strike in response to attacks in Iraq on American and allied personnel.
  • Biden is traveling to Texas on Friday in his first visit to a major disaster site as president. He will meet with local leaders to discuss relief efforts and promote coronavirus vaccinations.

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders, advisers, and stakeholders said about Debra Haaland as the nominee for secretary of the interior. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held Haaland’s confirmation hearings from Feb. 23-24. The committee has not yet voted on her nomination.

  • “After our conversation, I’m deeply concerned with the Congresswoman’s support on several radical issues that will hurt Montana, our way of life, our jobs and rural America, including her support for the Green New Deal and President Biden. … I’m not convinced the Congresswoman can divorce her radical views and represent what’s best for Montana and all stakeholders in the West. Unless my concerns are addressed, I will block her confirmation.” – Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.)
  • “Deb Haaland’s experience and commitment to restoring the public trust and the mission of this important agency is a breath of fresh air after the last four years of her predecessors’ shameful neglect and outright mission abandonment. As the first-ever Native American to serve as Secretary, she will bring a new and necessary voice to the agency that is crucial to Oregon and all of America.” – Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
  • “Her vocal opposition to oil and gas production on federal lands will only encourage President Biden along the illegal and reckless path that he has begun. Representative Haaland must demonstrate that she will follow the law, protect the multiple uses of our public lands, and reject policies that will force energy workers into the unemployment line. I won’t support her nomination otherwise.” – Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
  • “I believe Congresswoman Haaland is uniquely qualified to serve as Secretary of Interior during this critical moment. As a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, she has built a strong reputation working with her colleagues as a seeker of solutions. Her bold leadership is what the Department of the Interior needs to tackle the monumental challenge of preserving the natural world around us for future generations.” – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.)

What We’re Reading



Biden revokes Trump exec orders on visas, regulatory authority

February 25, 2021: Joe Biden revoked several Trump-era executive orders on immigration, regulatory authority, and other issues.

President Joe Biden (D) and his team have been preparing for the transition between presidential administrations since the election, 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 administration.

  • One Cabinet-level committee hearing is scheduled Thursday: The Finance Senate Committee is holding a hearing for Katherine Tai for U.S. trade representative.
  • The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions is also holding a hearing for Vivek Murthy for surgeon general on Thursday. This is not a Cabinet-level position.
  • The Senate will vote on the nomination of Jennifer Granholm for secretary of energy on Thursday. The Senate will also vote on whether to invoke cloture on the nomination of Miguel Cardona for secretary of education.
  • The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship advanced Isabel Guzman’s nomination for administrator of the Small Business Administration by a vote of 15-5.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said he would support Debra Haaland’s nomination for secretary of the interior, indicating she could have enough support to be confirmed along party lines, according to The New York Times.
  • When asked about the postponement of committee votes on Neera Tanden’s nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on Wednesday, “It didn’t look like she had the votes.”

News

  • Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday that lifted a ban on certain types of immigrant visas, revoking an executive order by President Donald Trump (R). Biden also revoked Trump executive orders on agency rulemaking, government review of certain welfare programs, and the architecture of federal buildings.
  • Biden announced his nominees to fill three vacancies on the nine-member U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors on Wednesday: Anton Hajjar, Amber McReynolds, and Ron Stroman. The other six members include four Republicans and two Democrats. If the Senate confirms Biden’s nominees, Democrats will have enough votes to remove Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee.   

Transition in Context

The following chart compares the pace of Senate confirmations for the main Cabinet members—the 15 agency heads in the presidential line of succession—following the inaugurations of Presidents Barack Obama (D) and Joe Biden (D). It does not include Cabinet-rank officials that vary by administration.

Five weeks after their respective inaugurations, Biden had 7 of these secretaries confirmed and Obama had 12. A thirteenth Obama Cabinet member—Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—was held over from the Bush administration.

What We’re Reading



Senate confirms Vilsack for agriculture secretary, Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador

The Senate confirmed Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a diplomat who served in the U.S. Foreign Service for three decades, to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday by a vote of 78-20.

The Senate also confirmed Tom Vilsack for secretary of agriculture by a vote of 92-7. He previously served in this position during the Obama administration.

Six Republican senators and one independent voted against Vilsack’s confirmation:

• Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

• Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)

• Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

• Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

• Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)

• Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also voted against Vilsack’s nomination, marking the first time a Democrat or independent who caucuses with the Democrats opposed a Biden nominee.

Thomas-Greenfield and Vilsack will be sworn in on Wednesday.

Additional Reading:



Senate committees postpone votes on Tanden for OMB director

February 24, 2021: Two Senate committees postponed scheduled votes on Neera Tanden’s nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget.

President Joe Biden (D) and his team have been preparing for the transition between presidential administrations since the election, 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 administration.

  • The Senate confirmed Linda Thomas-Greenfield to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday by a vote of 78-20.
  • The Senate also confirmed Tom Vilsack to serve as secretary of agriculture on Tuesday by a vote of 92-7. Six Republicans voted against his confirmation: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also voted against Vilsack, marking the first time a Democrat or independent who caucuses with Democrats voted against a Biden nominee.
  • Three committee hearings are scheduled Wednesday:
    • The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is holding a second day of hearings for Debra Haaland for secretary of the interior.
    • The Senate Finance Committee is holding a hearing for Xavier Becerra for secretary of health and human services.
    • The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship will vote on Isabel Guzman’s nomination for administrator of the Small Business Administration.
  • The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs postponed a planned vote on Neera Tanden’s nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday. The Washington Post reported that the Senate Budget Committee, which was also scheduled to vote on Tanden’s nomination on Wednesday, also planned to delay their vote.

News

  • Drew Tipton, a federal judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, granted a preliminary injunction blocking the Biden administration’s 100-day moratorium on deportations. The injunction applies to all states. Tipton is a Trump appointee.
  • Biden is expected to sign an executive order on Wednesday calling for the review of global supply chains for computer chips, large-capacity batteries used in electric vehicles, pharmaceuticals and related products, and critical minerals.

Transition in Context

The following chart compares the pace of Senate confirmations for the main Cabinet members—the 15 agency heads in the presidential line of succession—following the inaugurations of Presidents Donald Trump (R) and Joe Biden (D). It does not include Cabinet-rank officials that vary by administration.

Five weeks after their respective inaugurations, Trump had nine of these secretaries confirmed and Biden had seven.

What We’re Reading



Senate to vote on Vilsack, Thomas-Greenfield nominations

The Senate will vote on the nominations of Tom Vilsack for secretary of agriculture and Linda Thomas-Greenfield for ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden (D) and his team have been preparing for the transition between presidential administrations since the election, 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 administration.

  • Three committee hearings are scheduled Tuesday:
    • The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding the second day of confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland for attorney general.
    • The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is holding a hearing  for Debra Haaland for secretary of the interior.
    • The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions is holding a hearing for Xavier Becerra for secretary of health and human services.
  • The Senate invoked cloture on debate over Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s nomination for ambassador to the United Nations. Her confirmation vote is scheduled for Tuesday.
  • The Senate will also vote on the confirmation of Tom Vilsack for secretary of agriculture on Tuesday.

News

  • Biden issued a proclamation on Monday to memorialize the more than 500,000 Americans who have died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He ordered the flag to be flown at half-staff until February 26.
  • Four key senators have announced their opposition to Neera Tanden’s nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget: Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also said she was unlikely to vote for Tanden. Axios reported that Shalanda Young, a former staff director for the House Appropriations Committee, was being considered to replace Tanden in the event her nomination failed or was withdrawn.
  • Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council under the Clinton and Obama administrations, and Ann O’Leary, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) chief of staff, are also being considered as potential replacements for Tanden, according to CNBC.
  • Biden will hold his first bilateral meeting as president with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday. The meeting will take place virtually.
  • Seventy-five Republican members of Congress sent a letter to Biden requesting he withdraw Xavier Becerra from consideration for secretary of health and human services. Eleven senators signed the letter.

Transition in Context: National Security Council

The National Security Council was established by the National Security Act of 1947 to provide the president with advice from and coordination between national security and foreign policy leaders and experts. The president is the chair of council.

In the Biden administration, the following individuals regularly attend National Security Council meetings:

  • Tony Blinken, secretary of state
  • Janet Yellen, secretary of the Treasury
  • Lloyd Austin, secretary of defense
  • Secretary of energy
  • Attorney general
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of homeland security
  • Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development
  • Ron Klain, White House chief of staff
  • Jake Sullivan, assistant to the president for national security affairs
  • Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Avril Haines, director of national intelligence

The counsel to the president and legal advisor to the National Security Council are also invited to attend each meeting.

Other senior officials, including the COVID-19 response coordinator and special presidential envoy for climate, are invited to meetings when appropriate.

What We’re Reading



Senate expected to confirm at least two Biden Cabinet nominees this week

Senate confirmation votes are expected this week for two of President Joe Biden’s (D) Cabinet nominees: Tom Vilsack for secretary of agriculture on Feb. 23 and Linda Thomas-Greenfield for ambassador to the United Nations by Feb. 24.

Vilsack previously served as the secretary of agriculture for eight years in the Obama administration. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2009.

Thomas-Greenfield is a veteran diplomat who served in the U.S. Foreign Service for three decades. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced her nomination by a vote of 18-4.

Seven members Biden’s 23 member Cabinet have been confirmed:

  • Tony Blinken, secretary of state
  • Janet Yellen, secretary of the Treasury
  • Lloyd Austin, secretary of defense
  • Pete Buttigieg, secretary of transportation
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of homeland security
  • Denis McDonough, secretary of veterans affairs
  • Avril Haines, director of national intelligence

The following chart compares the pace of Senate confirmations for the main Cabinet members—the 15 agency heads in the presidential line of succession—following the inaugurations of President Donald Trump (R) and Biden. It does not include Cabinet-rank officials that vary by administration.

Nearly five weeks after their respective inaugurations, nine of Trump’s secretaries had been confirmed compared to six for Biden.



Manchin opposes Tanden confirmation for OMB director

February 22, 2021: Sen. Joe Manchin said he will oppose Neera Tanden’s confirmation for director of the Office of Management and Budget.

President Joe Biden (D) and his team have been preparing for the transition between presidential administrations since the election, 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 administration.

  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said on Friday that he would vote against the confirmation of Neera Tanden for director of the Office of Management and Budget. “I believe her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next director,” he said. Tanden will need at least one Republican vote to be confirmed.
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who has supported seven Biden Cabinet nominees so far, also said she will oppose Tanden’s confirmation.

News

  • The United States officially rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement on Friday. The Biden administration will set a target for reducing emissions in the coming months. The Obama administration had set a goal of reducing emissions, as measured in 2005, by 26 percent by 2025.
  • The Biden administration is adjusting the Paycheck Protection Program’s guidelines effective Feb. 24. Under the new rules, sole proprietors will be eligible to receive more aid. For companies with 20 or more employees, there will be a 14-day freeze on loans.
  • On Saturday, Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Texas on Saturday, giving  77 of the state’s 254 counties access to federal assistance.

Transition in Context: Executive Orders in the First Month

The following table compares the number of executive orders issued by each of the four most recent presidents during his first month in office.

Biden has issued more executive orders during this time period than his three predecessors. President Donald Trump (R) issued the most executive orders per year on average: 55.

What We’re Reading



Ballotpedia’s Weekly Transition Tracker: January 30 – February 5, 2021

President Joe Biden (D) and his team have been preparing for the transition between presidential administrations since the election, 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 administration.

  • The Senate confirmed Pete Buttigieg for secretary of transportation on Tuesday by a vote of 86-13. Thirteen Republicans voted against his nomination. Buttigieg is the only Biden nominee, out of six so far, that Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has supported. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has opposed all six confirmations so far. Buttigieg is the first openly gay person to be confirmed as a Cabinet secretary.
  • The Senate confirmed Alejandro Mayorkas for secretary of homeland security on Tuesday by a vote of 56-43. Six Republicans supported his confirmation: Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska).
  • The following confirmation hearings were held this week:
  • The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a confirmation hearing for Marty Walsh for secretary of labor on Thursday.
  • The Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor, and Pensions held a confirmation hearing for Miguel Cardona for secretary of education on Wednesday.
  • The Senate Committee on Small Business held a confirmation hearing for Isabel Guzman for administrator of the Small Business Administration on Wednesday.
  • The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a confirmation hearing for Michael Regan for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday.
  • Tom Vilsack, nominee for secretary of agriculture, appeared before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry on Tuesday.
  • No committee hearings are scheduled Friday. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and Senate Budget Committee scheduled Neera Tanden’s confirmation hearings for director of the Office of Management and Budget over two days next week: February 9-10.
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced the nomination of Linda Thomas-Greenfield for ambassador to the U.N. by a vote of 18-4 on Thursday.
  • The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs advanced the nomination of Marcia Fudge for secretary of housing and urban development by a vote of 17-7 on Thursday.
  • The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation advanced the nomination of Gina Raimondo for secretary of commerce by a vote of 21-3 on Wednesday.
  • The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources advanced the nomination of  Jennifer Granholm for secretary of energy by a vote of 13-4 on Wednesday.
  • The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs unanimously advanced the nomination of Denis McDonough for secretary of veterans affairs on Tuesday.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) placed a hold on the confirmation vote for Gina Raimondo for secretary of commerce on Thursday, citing concerns with her position on whether the  activity of Chinese company Huawei should be restricted in the U.S. A hold is a procedural tool any senator can use to temporarily block movement on a nominee’s confirmation process.
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, rejected a request from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to hold a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland for U.S. attorney general on February 8. Graham said, “Proceeding with the confirmation of an attorney general and the impeachment of a former president at the same time would give neither the attention required.” He added that a one-day hearing was insufficient. Durbin said the committee had received Garland’s paperwork nearly two weeks before, giving them time to have reviewed the materials. Durbin also said that he was “prepared to take other steps to expedite the Senate’s consideration of Judge Garland’s nomination should his hearing not go forward on February 8.”

Executive Actions

  • Biden signed two memoranda on Thursday directing relevant federal agencies to advance protections for the human rights of LGBT people abroad and modernizing how the national security community approaches workforce issues, including recruitment and retention of workers with critical skills.
  • Biden also signed an executive order on Thursday to expand the U.S. refugee admissions program. In a fact sheet, the Biden White House said the administration had a goal of 125,000 refugee admissions in its first fiscal year.
  • Biden issued three proclamations on Wednesday regarding Black History Month, American Heart Month, and National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention.
  • On Tuesday, Biden signed executive orders on family separations, border security, and legal immigration processes on Tuesday.
  • Biden signed a proclamation on Monday to reimpose a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports from the United Arab Emirates. President Donald Trump (R) had lifted the tariff in a proclamation on January 19. 

Other News

  • Vice President Kamala Harris (D) cast her first tie-breaking vote in the Senate on Friday as part of the budget reconciliation process being used to pass a COVID-19 relief package.
  • The Federal Labor Relations Authority said all 10 members of the Federal Service Impasses Panel were asked to submit their resignations by Tuesday. “It is customary when control of the White House is transferred between political parties for the new president to replace the panel’s membership, but President Joe Biden acted more quickly than his predecessors,” Bloomberg Law reported.
  • Roger Severino, a member of the Administrative Conference of the United States, is suing the Biden administration for calling on him to resign or be fired. Severino’s lawsuit said Biden did not have the constitutional authority to terminate Severino since the board is an advisory entity. The White House had not commented, according to Politico.
  • The Biden Administration intends to focus on filling vacancies in the judicial system and establishing a pipeline for potential nominees. “The new administration will take a page from the Trump White House and speed up the process by forgoing the American Bar Association review of candidates in advance of formal nominations,” The Washington Post reported.
  • Biden delivered his first major foreign policy speech as president on Monday. The speech’s theme was “restoring America’s place in the world,” according to an administration official.

Transition in Context: Executive Actions

Biden has signed 29 executive orders, 13 presidential memoranda, and eight proclamations since taking office.

In his first two weeks in office, he signed 28 executive orders. This is more executive orders than his three predecessors combined—Presidents Donald Trump (R), Barack Obama (D), and George W. Bush (R)—signed over the same period of time.

Executive orders are directives written by the president to officials within the executive branch requiring them to take or stop some action related to policy or management. They are numbered, published in the Federal Register, and cite the authority by which the president is making the order.

Presidential memoranda also include instructions directed at executive officials, but they are neither numbered nor have the same publication requirements. The Office of Management and Budget is also not required to issue a budgetary impact statement on the subject of the memoranda.

In his 2014 book, By Order of the President: The Use and Abuse of Executive Direct Action, Phillip J. Cooper, a professor of public administration at Portland State University, wrote, “As a practical matter, the memorandum is now being used as the equivalent of an executive order, but without meeting the legal requirements for an executive order.”

Proclamations are a third type of executive directive that typically relate to private individuals or ceremonial events, such as holidays and commemorations.

Click here to see a list of executive actions by Biden.

Transition in Context: Expanding Cabinet

Each administration gives Cabinet-rank status to different officials outside of the 15 main Cabinet secretaries and vice president.

President Joe Biden (D) has given Cabinet-rank status to nine positions:

  • White House chief of staff
  • Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Director of the Office of Management and Budget
  • U.S. trade representative
  • Director of National Intelligence
  • Administrator of the Small Business Administration
  • Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers
  • Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy

President Donald Trump (R) did not include the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, ambassador to the United Nations, or director of Office of Science and Technology Policy in his final Cabinet. He did include the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

President Barack Obama (D) established a Cabinet similar to Biden’s but did not include the directors of National Intelligence or Office of Science and Technology Policy.

President George W. Bush (R) had fewer—just five—Cabinet-rank members. He included some familiar positions: the White House chief of staff, OMB director, U.S. trade representative, and EPA administrator.

Bush also named the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to his Cabinet—something none of his three successors have done.

Transition in Context: Pace of Confirmations

The following two charts compare the pace of Senate confirmations for the main Cabinet members—the 15 agency heads in the presidential line of succession—following the inaugurations of Presidents Barack Obama (D), Donald Trump (R) and Joe Biden (D). It does not include Cabinet-rank officials that vary by administration.

Two weeks after their respective inaugurations, Biden and Trump both had five Cabinet secretaries confirmed.

Obama had 11 Cabinet secretaries confirmed. A twelfth Obama Cabinet member—Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—was held over from the Bush administration.

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders, advisers, and stakeholders said about scheduling a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland for U.S. attorney general.

  • “The Democrats have chosen the agenda and they’ve chosen to do the budget resolution, so if there’s a delay in nomination it’s because it’s their choice.” – Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
  • “I look forward to questioning Judge Garland and potentially supporting his nomination, but not on February 8. Proceeding with the confirmation of an attorney general and the impeachment of a former president at the same time would give neither the attention required.” – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
  • “At this point, there is simply no justification to object to a February 8 hearing for Judge Garland.  First, a February 8 hearing accommodates your desire not to hold a hearing on Judge Garland’s nomination during a day when the Senate will be conducting the impeachment trial of former President Trump. Second, a February 8 hearing affords ample time to review Judge Garland’s record. … Third — and most importantly — to delay Judge Garland’s hearing jeopardizes our national security.” – Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
  • “[Mitch] McConnell said we’re not going to do any noms during budget resolution or impeachment. Other than just because he can do that, I don’t know why he would do that.” – Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)

What We’re Reading



Cruz places hold on Raimondo’s confirmation vote for secretary of commerce

February 5, 2021: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) placed a hold on the confirmation vote for Gina Raimondo for secretary of commerce.

President Joe Biden (D) and his team have been preparing for the transition between presidential administrations since the election, 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 administration.

  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced the nomination of Linda Thomas-Greenfield for ambassador to the U.N. by a vote of 18-4.
  • The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs advances the nomination of Marcia Fudge for secretary of housing and urban development by a vote of 17-7.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) placed a hold on the confirmation vote for Gina Raimondo for secretary of commerce on Thursday, citing concerns with her position on whether the  activity of Chinese company Huawei should be restricted in the U.S. A hold is a procedural tool any senator can use to temporarily block movement on a nominee’s confirmation process.

News

  • Biden signed two memoranda on Thursday directing relevant federal agencies to advance protections for the human rights of LGBT people abroad and modernizing how the national security community approaches workforce issues, including recruitment and retention of workers with critical skills.
  • Biden also signed an executive order to expand the U.S. refugee admissions program. In a fact sheet, the Biden White House said the administration had a goal of 125,000 refugee admissions in its first fiscal year.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris (D) cast her first tie-breaking vote in the Senate on Friday as part of the budget reconciliation process being used to pass a COVID-19 relief package.

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders, advisers, and stakeholders said about scheduling a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland for U.S. attorney general.

  • “The Democrats have chosen the agenda and they’ve chosen to do the budget resolution, so if there’s a delay in nomination it’s because it’s their choice.” – Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
  • “I look forward to questioning Judge Garland and potentially supporting his nomination, but not on February 8. Proceeding with the confirmation of an attorney general and the impeachment of a former president at the same time would give neither the attention required.” – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
  • “At this point, there is simply no justification to object to a February 8 hearing for Judge Garland. First, a February 8 hearing accommodates your desire not to hold a hearing on Judge Garland’s nomination during a day when the Senate will be conducting the impeachment trial of former President Trump. Second, a February 8 hearing affords ample time to review Judge Garland’s record. … Third — and most importantly — to delay Judge Garland’s hearing jeopardizes our national security.” – Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
  • “[Mitch] McConnell said we’re not going to do any noms during budget resolution or impeachment. Other than just because he can do that, I don’t know why he would do that.” – Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)

What We’re Reading