Tagtransitions

Ballotpedia’s Weekly Transition Tracker: April 3-9, 2021

Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking key presidential appointments, executive actions, and policy developments from the Biden administration.

  • There were no committee hearings scheduled this week. The Senate stands adjourned until April 12 for a full session.

Executive Actions and Nominations

  • Biden announced David Chipman as his nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) on Thursday. Chipman is an explosives expert and former ATF agent. The White House said in a statement, “As a father, public servant, gun owner, and decorated law enforcement professional Chipman has spent his life serving the public, combating violent crime, and striving to make our nation and our communities safer every day.”
  • Biden also announced several executive actions he planned to take to address gun violence, including the review of policy on unregistered firearms assembled at home, which the White House called ghost guns; the regulation of pistol-stabilizing braces; model legislation for red flag laws; community violence interventions; and an annual report on firearms trafficking.
  • On Tuesday, Biden said that he would nominate Robin Carnahan (D) to serve as the administrator of the General Services Administration. Carnahan is a former Missouri secretary of state, serving from 2005 to 2013.

Other News

  • Seven Democratic governors—Phil Murphy (N.J.), Gavin Newsom (Calif.), Ned Lamont (Conn.), David Ige (Hawaii), J.B. Pritzker (Ill.), Andrew Cuomo (N.Y.), and Kate Brown (Ore.)—called on Biden to lift the $10,000 cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions established during the Trump administration. 
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview on Saturday that he planned to move forward with a marijuana legalization bill whether or not Biden supported it.
  • The Senate parliamentarian ruled on Monday that a revised budget resolution could use the reconciliation process, which would allow the Senate to pass spending legislation by a simple majority vote rather than 60 votes.
  • On Tuesday, Biden moved up the deadline for all adults to be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine from May 1 to April 19. For more information about vaccine distribution and eligibility by state, click here.
  • The Open Society Foundations planned to spend $20 million to promote Biden’s infrastructure and social welfare proposals. Axios reported that spending on the campaign could reach $100 million.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said on Monday that he opposed Biden’s proposal to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, preferring instead 25%. “If I don’t vote to get on it, it’s not going anywhere. So we’re going to have some leverage here. And it’s more than just me. … There’s six or seven other Democrats that feel very strongly about this,” Manchin said.
  • Manchin also wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post on his opposition to eliminating or weakening the filibuster.
  • Tennessee and Kentucky filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration regarding tax provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act. The complaint said the tax provisions prohibit states that receive federal aid under the law from lowering taxes for several years, constituting a federal overreach.
  • Biden promoted the American Jobs Plan during remarks at the White House on Wednesday. His administration also began conducting outreach to governors and mayors and making local TV appearances to support the plan.
  • Jill Biden announced details of her Joining Forces initiative on Wednesday, which will include expanding job opportunities for military spouses and access to mental health services.
  • The White House is vetting Amos Hochstein as a potential special envoy to halt the Nord Stream 2, the Russia-Germany gas pipeline project. Hochstein was a special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs in the Obama administration.
  • Biden is expected to release the initial outline of his proposed 2022 federal budget on Friday, which will include $715 billion for the Pentagon, up from $704 billion this fiscal year. 
  • During a court hearing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday, the Biden administration will announce its position on whether the Dakota Access pipeline should be shut down.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats would likely pursue separate legislation on infrastructure and jobs, with a target of passing both before Congress’ August recess.

Transition in Context: Flashback to Trump’s First Year in Office

Here’s a look at what President Donald Trump (R) was doing this week during his first year in office.

  • April 5, 2017: Trump removed White House chief strategist Steve Bannon from the principals committee of the National Security Council.
  • April 6, 2017: Trump announced he had ordered airstrikes in Syria in response to chemical attacks on civilians allegedly ordered by Syrian President Bashar Assad.
  • Apri 7, 2017: Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago for a second day.
  • April 8, 2017: The Pentagon said a U.S. Navy carrier strike group heading for Australia was instead being moved near the Korean peninsula.
  • April 9, 2017: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with diplomats from the G-7 countries.

Transition in Context: Flashback to Obama’s First Year in Office

Here’s a look at what President Barack Obama (D) was doing this week during his first year in office.

  • April 6, 2009: Obama addressed the Turkish parliament in Ankara as part of his first overseas trip as president.
  • April 7, 2009: Obama visited troops at Camp Victory near Baghdad, Iraq.
  • April 8, 2009: Obama was expected to make a supplemental request of $83 billion to help continue to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through September.
  • April 9, 2009: Obama hosted a Passover Seder at the White House.
  • April 10, 2009: Obama met with financial regulators to discuss the health of 19 of the biggest U.S. banks.

Transition in Context: Presidential Approval Rating

The following chart compares the presidential approval ratings of Presidents Donald Trump (R) and Joe Biden (D) on a week-over-week basis. This number is taken from the 30-day average of polls conducted by a select list of polling organizations and outlets. Click here to read the list of polling organizations used.

President Biden’s approval rating for the tenth week of his term was 51.9%, down 1.3 percentage points from the week before. President Trump’s approval rating at the same point in his term was 42.3%, down 2.3 percentage points from the week before.

Transition in Context: Congressional Approval Rating

The following chart compares congressional approval ratings during the administrations of Presidents Donald Trump (R) and Joe Biden (D) on a week-over-week basis. 

Congress’ approval rating during the tenth week of President Biden’s term was 24.6%, down 1.9 percentage points from the week before. At the same point in President Trump’s term, Congress’ approval rating was 18.5%, down 1.8 percentage points from the week before.

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders have said about the American Jobs Plan.

  • “I don’t think the bill can grow into a multi-trillion-dollar catch-all. A transportation bill needs to be a transportation bill, not a Green New Deal. It needs to be about roads and bridges.” – Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.)
  • “You can’t separate the climate part from this vision because every road we fix, every bridge we build, we can either do it in a way that’s better for the climate or worse for the climate. Why wouldn’t we want to be creating these jobs in a way that’s better for the climate?” – Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg (D)
  • “They’re terming it ‘social infrastructure.’ Never heard that before. I think we need to talk to the American people and say, ‘Is this what you envision with infrastructure? Are these job creators? Are we re-engineering our own social fabric here with a 50-vote majority?'” – Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)
  • “I think it’s a wish list for every single mayor and almost every governor across the country. I mean, I think that this is something that, if I were the mayor of Boston a week ago when the president unveiled this plan, I would be excited because almost every aspect of this plan touches somebody in the city of Boston. And I can speak for a lot of mayors around the country. They’re very excited about this legislation. So I don’t think they view it as a liberal wish list. They view it as something that is much needed in America.” – Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh (D)

What We’re Reading



Transition Tracker for April 9, 2021: Biden is expected to release the initial outline of his proposed 2022 federal budget.

Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking key presidential appointments, executive actions, and policy developments from the Biden administration.

  • There are no committee hearings scheduled Friday. The Senate stands adjourned until April 12 for a full session.

News

  • Biden is expected to release the initial outline of his proposed 2022 federal budget on Friday, which will include $715 billion for the Pentagon, up from $704 billion this fiscal year. 
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post on his opposition to eliminating or weakening the filibuster.
  • During a court hearing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday, the Biden administration will announce its position on whether the Dakota Access pipeline should be shut down.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats would likely pursue separate legislation on infrastructure and jobs, with a target of passing both before Congress’ August recess.

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders have said about the American Jobs Plan.

  • “I don’t think the bill can grow into a multi-trillion-dollar catch-all. A transportation bill needs to be a transportation bill, not a Green New Deal. It needs to be about roads and bridges.” – Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.)
  • “You can’t separate the climate part from this vision because every road we fix, every bridge we build, we can either do it in a way that’s better for the climate or worse for the climate. Why wouldn’t we want to be creating these jobs in a way that’s better for the climate?” – Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg (D)
  • “They’re terming it ‘social infrastructure.’ Never heard that before. I think we need to talk to the American people and say, ‘Is this what you envision with infrastructure? Are these job creators? Are we re-engineering our own social fabric here with a 50-vote majority?'” – Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)
  • “I think it’s a wish list for every single mayor and almost every governor across the country. I mean, I think that this is something that, if I were the mayor of Boston a week ago when the president unveiled this plan, I would be excited because almost every aspect of this plan touches somebody in the city of Boston. And I can speak for a lot of mayors around the country. They’re very excited about this legislation. So I don’t think they view it as a liberal wish list. They view it as something that is much needed in America.” – Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh (D)

What We’re Reading



Transition Tracker: Biden supports reinstating talking filibuster in U.S. Senate

March 17, 2021: President Joe Biden (D) said he supported reinstating the talking filibuster in the U.S. Senate.

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.

Recent and Upcoming Confirmation Hearings and Votes

  • The Senate confirmed Isabel Guzman for administrator of the Small Business Administration by a vote of 81-17 on Tuesday. She is the 18th member of Biden’s Cabinet to be confirmed.
  • The Senate will vote on the nomination of Katherine Tai for U.S. trade representative on Wednesday. The Senate voted to end debate on her nomination on Tuesday by a vote of 98-0.

News

  • In an interview on Tuesday, Biden said he supported reinstating the talking filibuster in the U.S. Senate. This change would require senators to hold the Senate floor by speaking to block movement on a bill.
  • Biden also discussed the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, saying it would be tough to withdraw troops by May 1 as the Trump administration had pledged.
  • The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report on Tuesday finding that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely directed efforts to interfere in the U.S. presidential election to benefit President Donald Trump’s (R) presidential campaign.
  • Biden will hold his first news conference on March 25, roughly two months after he took office. “Recent past presidents have typically done so within their first month as a good-faith gesture toward the free press,” Politico reported.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris (D) addressed the United Nations in a speech on Tuesday about women’s rights and violence against women during the coronavirus pandemic.

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.

Eight weeks after their respective inaugurations, Trump and Biden both had 13 of these secretaries confirmed. Trump’s secretaries of agriculture and labor had not yet been confirmed. Biden’s secretaries of labor and health and human services have not yet been confirmed.

What We’re Reading



Ballotpedia’s Weekly Transition Tracker: February 27-March 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 Miguel Cardona as secretary of education on Monday evening by a vote of 64-33. All 33 votes against his confirmation came from Republicans. He was sworn into office on Tuesday by Vice President Kamala Harris.
  • The Senate confirmed Gina Raimondo for secretary of commerce on Tuesday by a vote of 84-15. Raimondo resigned as governor of Rhode Island, and the state’s lieutenant governor, Dan McKee (D), was sworn into office.
  • The Senate confirmed Cecilia Rouse to chair the Council of Economic Advisers on Tuesday by a vote of 95-4. Four Republicans opposed her confirmation: Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Rick Scott (Fla.), and Tommy Tuberville (Ala.). Rouse is the first Biden nominee that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) voted to confirm.
  • The White House announced on Tuesday that Neera Tanden had requested to be withdrawn from consideration for director of the Office of Management Budget due to opposition to her nomination. Biden said in a statement that he had accepted her request: “I have the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my Administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work.”
  • The Senate Finance Committee split along party lines, 14-14, on whether to favorably report Xavier Becerra‘s nomination for secretary of health and human services on Wednesday. As a result, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will need to move to discharge the nomination from the committee to get a vote on the Senate floor for Becerra.
  • The Senate Finance Committee also advanced Katherine Tai’s nomination for U.S. trade representative by voice vote.
  • The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources advanced the nomination of Debra Haaland for secretary of the interior by a vote of 11-9 on Thursday.

Executive Actions

  • Biden issued six proclamations on Monday to commemorate the following daily, weekly, and monthly observances:
    • National Consumer Protection Week
    • Women’s History Month
    • American Red Cross Month
    • National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
    • Read Across America Day
    • Irish-American Heritage Month
  • Biden issued three notices on Wednesday regarding the continuation of national emergencies related to Zimbabwe, Ukraine, and Venezuela.

Other News

  • The House passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on Saturday. The $1.9 trillion bill advanced to the Senate for consideration. For more information about the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.
  • The Biden administration announced Sunday that it was resuming peace negotiations with the Taliban.
  • Biden virtually met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to discuss immigration and economic issues and the coronavirus on Monday.
  • The Biden administration issued sanctions against associates of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia for their involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A declassified intelligence report released on Feb. 26 said bin Salman approved Khashoggi’s capture or death. Biden did not directly sanction bin Salman. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Sunday, “We believe there [are] more effective ways to make sure this doesn’t happen again and to also be able to leave room to work with the Saudis on areas where there is mutual agreement.”
  • Biden said states should prioritize distributing COVID-19 vaccinations to teachers with a goal of every school staff member receiving at least one dose by the end of March. For more information about the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.
  • Biden reportedly selected Seth Harris, who served as acting secretary of labor during the Obama administration, to be his top labor adviser. In this capacity, Harris will work with the Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council.
  • The Pentagon announced that Ukraine will receive a $125 military aid package. The department said that it “encourages Ukraine to continue to enact reforms that strengthen civilian control of the military, promote increased transparency and accountability in defense industry and procurement, and modernize its defense sector in other key areas in line with NATO principles and standards.”
  • The U.S. Forest Service nullified the publication of an environmental impact study that would have allowed for the transfer of Arizona land to a copper mine project.
  • Biden announced his support for Amazon warehouse workers’ efforts to unionize in Alabama, although he did not explicitly name the company in his statement.
  • Politico reported that Biden did not have enough votes in the House to pass his immigration legislation. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, suggested it would not be considered until April. “We need to engage in some consultation with key members and stakeholders, but I see no reason why we wouldn’t mark it up when we reconvene in April,” Nadler said.
  • The Department of Justice requested the Supreme Court dismiss three lawsuits relating to the withholding of federal funding from sanctuary jurisdictions. It said it had reached an agreement with the jurisdictions at issue. The department, under the Trump administration, had sought to block jurisdictions that did not cooperate with federal immigration authorities from receiving certain aid.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that Biden canceled a second airstrike on a target in Syria to avoid civilian casualties on February 26, 2021.
  • Biden will meet with leaders from Australia, India, and Japan as part of the first meeting of the Quad bloc—four democratic Indo-Pacific countries. No date was set for the event.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris (D) cast her third tie-breaking vote to proceed with debate on the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on Thursday. The Senate had split 50-50 along party lines.

Transition in Context: How have senators have voted on Biden Cabinet nominees?

As of March 5, the following senators have voted against most of Biden’s nominees:

Hawley discussed his voting record on Monday, saying, “I take them one at a time, if there is someone I think will be good to Missouri, that I can defend to my voters, somebody who I think is going to be good for the job, I’ll vote for them.” The only nominee he supported was Cecilia Rouse for chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Four Republicans have supported all 13 of Biden’s nominees so far:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the only Democrat or independent who caucuses with the Democrats to vote against a Biden nominee: Tom Vilsack for secretary of agriculture.

Sanders said, “I opposed his confirmation…because at a time when corporate consolidation of agriculture is rampant and family farms are being decimated, we need a secretary who is prepared to vigorously take on corporate power in the industry.”

Transition in Context: Comparison of Confirmation Pace

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 10 of these secretaries confirmed, Trump had 13, and Obama had 12. A thirteenth Obama Cabinet member—Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—was held over from the Bush administration.

Transition in Context: Who could be the new nominee for OMB director?

Here are the candidates the White House is reportedly considering as alternative nominees for director of the Office of Management and Budget:

  • Shalanda Young is a former staff director for the House Appropriations Committee. She has a confirmation hearing this week for her nomination for OMB deputy director.
  • Gene Sperling was previously in consideration for the position. He was director of the National Economic Council in both the Clinton and Obama administration.
  • Ann O’Leary was California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) former chief of staff. O’Leary worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
  • Martha Coven was the associate director for Education, Income Maintenance, and Labor in the OMB during the Obama administration. She was also involved in Biden’s search committee for the OMB.
  • Sarah Bianchi was a deputy assistant to the president for economic policy in the Obama administration and longtime Biden policy aide.

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders, advisers, and stakeholders said about Xavier Becerra as the nominee for secretary of health and human services. The Senate Finance Committee split along party lines, 14-14, on whether to favorably report his nomination.

  • “If a doctor were nominated for Attorney General, everyone would say ‘he’s not qualified.’ Apparently, however, it is okay to nominate an Attorney General for HHS Secretary. A HHS Secretary should have some expertise in the subject matter. Previous appointees have been governors, a state insurance commissioner, health administrators or doctor, and a pharmaceutical executive.” – Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)
  • “If there is an effort to paint the Attorney General as some kind of inexperienced radical, it’s just not backed up by what the committee saw last week. He respects those with whom he has differences of opinion, and he wants to find common ground with all members of this committee to solve big healthcare challenges.” – Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
  • “Significant concerns have been raised about Attorney General Becerra’s challenges to HHS’ authority to provide a conscience exemption from the Obamacare contraception coverage mandate and enforcement of the state’s restrictive actions, including a ban on indoor religious services that was rejected by the Supreme Court.” – Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
  • “”HHS has always been a critical role, but especially during a pandemic. Attorney General Becerra’s experience will be a tremendous asset as he works to address the pandemic and make healthcare more affordable. … I know he’ll put American families at the top of his agenda.” – Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)

What We’re Reading



Transition Tracker: Harris casts third tie-breaking vote on coronavirus recovery bill

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 Committee on Energy and Natural Resources advanced the nomination of Debra Haaland for secretary of the interior by a vote of 11-9 on Thursday.

News

  • The Department of Justice requested the Supreme Court dismiss three lawsuits relating to the withholding of federal funding from sanctuary jurisdictions. It said it had reached an agreement with the jurisdictions at issue. The department, under the Trump administration, had sought to block jurisdictions that did not cooperate with federal immigration authorities from receiving certain aid.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that Biden canceled a second airstrike on a target in Syria to avoid civilian casualties on February 26, 2021.
  • Biden will meet with leaders from Australia, India, and Japan as part of the first meeting of the Quad bloc—four democratic Indo-Pacific countries. No date was set for the event.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris (D) cast her third tie-breaking vote to proceed with debate on the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on Thursday. The Senate had split 50-50 along party lines.

Transition in Context

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders, advisers, and stakeholders said about Xavier Becerra as the nominee for secretary of health and human services. The Senate Finance Committee split along party lines, 14-14, on whether to favorably report his nomination.

  • “If a doctor were nominated for Attorney General, everyone would say ‘he’s not qualified.’ Apparently, however, it is okay to nominate an Attorney General for HHS Secretary. A HHS Secretary should have some expertise in the subject matter. Previous appointees have been governors, a state insurance commissioner, health administrators or doctor, and a pharmaceutical executive.” – Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)
  • “If there is an effort to paint the Attorney General as some kind of inexperienced radical, it’s just not backed up by what the committee saw last week. He respects those with whom he has differences of opinion, and he wants to find common ground with all members of this committee to solve big healthcare challenges.” – Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
  • “Significant concerns have been raised about Attorney General Becerra’s challenges to HHS’ authority to provide a conscience exemption from the Obamacare contraception coverage mandate and enforcement of the state’s restrictive actions, including a ban on indoor religious services that was rejected by the Supreme Court.” – Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
  • “”HHS has always been a critical role, but especially during a pandemic. Attorney General Becerra’s experience will be a tremendous asset as he works to address the pandemic and make healthcare more affordable. … I know he’ll put American families at the top of his agenda.” – Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)

What We’re Reading



White House withdraws first Cabinet nominee

President Joe Biden (D) withdrew the nomination of Neera Tanden for director of the Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday after several senators, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), said they would vote against confirming her. This marks the first failed nomination of Biden’s administration.

Biden said in a statement, “I have accepted Neera Tanden’s request to withdraw her name from nomination for Director of the Office of Management and Budget. I have the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my Administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work.”

In her withdrawal letter to Biden, Tanden said, “I appreciate how hard you and your team at the White House has worked to win my confirmation. Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities.”

The White House has not yet named a new nominee, although the following individuals are reportedly in consideration:

• Shalanda Young is a former staff director for the House Appropriations Committee. She had a confirmation hearing this week for her nomination for OMB deputy director.

• Gene Sperling was previously in consideration for the position. He was director of the National Economic Council in both the Clinton and Obama administration.

• Ann O’Leary was California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) chief of staff. O’Leary worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

• Martha Coven was the associate director for Education, Income Maintenance, and Labor in the OMB during the Obama administration. She was also involved in Biden’s search committee for the OMB.

• Sarah Bianchi was a deputy assistant to the president for economic policy in the Obama administration and is a longtime Biden policy aide.

The Senate has confirmed 13 of Biden’s Cabinet nominees, including three earlier this week:

• Miguel Cardona for secretary of education (64-33)

• Gina Raimondo for secretary of commerce (84-15)

• Cecilia Rouse for chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (95-4)

Eight other nominees are awaiting committee or confirmation votes. Eric Lander, Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy, is awaiting a confirmation hearing.

Four Republicans have supported all 13 of Biden’s nominees so far:

• Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

• Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

• Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)

• Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah)

The following senators have voted against all or most of Biden’s nominees:

• Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) voted against 12 of the 13 nominees. The only nominee he supported was Rouse.

• Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) voted against 11 of the 13 nominees.

• Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) voted against 10 of the 13 nominees.

• Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) voted against 9 of the 13 nominees.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the only Democrat or independent who caucuses with Democrats to vote against one of Biden’s nominees.

Additional 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:



Transition Tracker: February 10, 2021: Garland’s confirmation hearing scheduled to begin Feb. 22

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 committee hearing is scheduled Wednesday:
  • The Senate Budget Committee is holding a confirmation hearing for Neera Tanden for director of the Office of Management and Budget. This is the second of two confirmation hearings for Tanden. Read Tuesday’s edition to learn more about Tanden’s confirmation process.
  • The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works advanced the nomination of Michael Regan for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency by a vote of 14-6 on Tuesday.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing for U.S. attorney general on February 22-23, 2021. Garland will testify on the first day, while outside witnesses will speak on the second day.

News

  • The White House said on Tuesday that the Biden administration planned to keep the U.S. embassy to Israel in Jerusalem. The Trump administration moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018.
  • Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), along with four Republican House members and the Illinois Republican Party, requested Biden allow U.S. Attorney John Lausch to continue in his role investigating public corruption charges in Illinois.
    • Biden announced on Tuesday that he was asking all Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys to resign with two exceptions.
    • The two attorneys allowed to stay on are David Weiss and John Durham, who are investigating Hunter Biden’s taxes and the FBI probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, respectively.  
  • Federal judge Drew Tipton, who sits on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, extended an order blocking Biden’s moratorium on deportations for two more weeks. Tipton was appointed by Trump in 2020.
  • The Justice Department said on Tuesday that it would continue efforts to have WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange extradited from the United Kingdom.

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.

Twenty days after their respective inaugurations, Trump and Biden both had six of these secretaries confirmed.

What We’re Reading



Biden to be inaugurated as 46th president

Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) will also be sworn in as the 49th vice president of the United States, becoming the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to serve in the office.

Due to security concerns stemming from the breach of the U.S. Capitol, up to 25,000 National Guard members are expected to be in Washington, D.C. The National Mall will be closed to the general public, and there will be no public parade from the Capitol to the White House.

The ceremony will be streamed on https://bideninaugural.org/watch/ and broadcast across all major television networks and platforms.

President Donald Trump (R) will not participate in the event. The last incumbent president to skip his successor’s inauguration for political reasons was Andrew Johnson in 1869.



Transition Tracker: Biden picks Merrick Garland to lead Justice Department

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 2016, there were 1,714 government positions subject to presidential appointment: 1,242 positions required Senate confirmation and 472 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.

Congress Counts Electoral Votes, Declares Biden Winner

Congress convened a joint session on Wednesday to count electoral votes by state and confirm the result of the presidential election.

As president of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence (R) presided over the proceedings. To object to a state’s count, one member each from the House and Senate had to submit a written objection after the body read the vote count from a particular state or D.C. After time for debate—a maximum of two hours—both chambers voted by a simple majority to concur or reject the objection.

Thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump (R) went to the Capitol Building as Congress was in its joint session. Around 2:15 p.m. ET, both chambers recessed as the group breached the Capitol and the building went into lockdown. The group trespassed through several security barriers, leading to altercations with police and other security officials. Hundreds reached the interior of the Capitol and vandalized the building. Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were evacuated. Other members of Congress evacuated or sheltered in place. Four people died, including one woman shot and killed by Capitol Police.

After the Capitol was secured, Congress reconvened after 8 p.m. ET to continue with the count. Members submitted objections for six states. Two objections were formally presented by a Senate and House member:

  • Arizona: The Senate voted against sustaining the objection to Arizona’s electoral votes by a vote of 6-93. The House voted against sustaining this objection by a vote of 121-303.
  • Pennsylvania: The Senate voted against sustaining the objection to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes by a vote of 7-92. The House voted against sustaining the objection by a vote of 138-282.

Four states were counted following incomplete objections presented by a U.S. House member without a U.S. senator:

  • Georgia
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • Wisconsin

At 3:40 a.m. ET, Pence declared Biden the winner of the presidential election with 306 electoral votes and concluded the joint session.

Since the 1887 passage of the Electoral Count Act, there have been two instances of congressional objections. In 1969, an objection was raised against the North Carolina electoral votes, which was rejected 58-33 in the Senate and 228-170 in the House. In 2005, an objection was raised to the Ohio vote. It was rejected 74-1 in the Senate and 267-31 in the House.

Appointments and Nominations

Merrick Garland, U.S. attorney general

Biden announced on Thursday that he had selected Merrick Garland, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as his nominee for U.S. attorney general. Garland previously worked at the Department of Justice, where he led prosecutions related to the Oklahoma City bombings and the Unabomber case. He was a deputy assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division and a principal associate deputy attorney general. 

Garland was previously nominated by President Barack Obama (D) to the Supreme Court.

Biden announced three other Department of Justice nominations:

  • Lisa Monaco, deputy attorney general
  • Vanita Gupta, associate attorney general
  • Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for civil rights

News

  • Operation Warp Speed leader Moncef Slaoui will continue to work in the Biden administration as a consultant. He said on Wednesday, “I will continue to support as needed, I think we are getting close to the point where my value add is more limited and therefore I’ll expect my activity to decrease gradually after January 21.” 
  • Biden is expected to name the National Security Agency’s director of cybersecurity, Anne Neuberger, to a newly created position on the National Security Council focused on cybersecurity. 

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