WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden’s cabinet is starting to fill up, with nominees for agriculture secretary and United Nations ambassador getting Senate approval on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he intends to quickly wrap up the remaining nomination votes.
In a time of acute national challenge, we need qualified leaders at the top of our federal agencies and quickly, he told the Senate Tuesday. And that’s what we intend to do.
Schumer could not withstand a blow to former President Donald Trump, claiming that all Bidens candidates are undoubtedly qualified for their positions, which deviates dramatically from the caliber of candidates the Senate has been brought in to. consider under previous administration.
But one of Biden’s candidates, Neera Tanden to lead the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, is clearly struggling in an equally divided Senate. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has said he opposes its confirmation.
Here’s what happened on Tuesday:
THE UNITED NATIONS
The Senate voted 78-20 to approve career diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as United Nations Ambassador, a Cabinet-level position. A 35-year-old foreign service fighter who resigned under the Trump administration, Thomas-Greenfield will have to grapple with multiple international relations that have been altered by Trump’s erratic and isolationist style.
This confirmation sends a message that the United States is back and our foreign service is back, said Representative Karen Bass, D-Calif., Who chairs a House foreign affairs subcommittee on Africa, global health and human rights around the world. As a country and as a world, we are safer with Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations.
During confirmation hearings, Thomas-Greenfield was criticized by Senate Republicans who called her gentle on China, citing a 2019 speech she gave to the China-funded Confucius Institute in which she praised China’s vast infrastructure and influence program in Africa.
She said the speech was a mistake and was not intended to be an endorsement of the policies of the Chinese government. She said of China: “They are a threat to their neighbors and a threat to the whole world.
The Senate voted 92-7 to confirm Tom Vilsack for a return engagement as secretary of agriculture.
The former governor of Iowa spent eight years as head of the same department under former President Barack Obama.
In his testimony, 70-year-old Vilsack strongly endorsed stimulating climate-friendly agricultural industries such as the creation of biofuels, saying agriculture is one of our first and best ways to achieve victories in this area. climate.
Vilsack received minimal denial or criticism during confirmation hearings. One of the few negative votes came from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who is Caucasian with the Democrats. Sanders said he would have liked “someone a little more vigorous in terms of protecting family farms and taking on corporate farming.”
Vilsack has also strongly supported the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program commonly known as Food Stamps, or SNAP as a key instrument to help the country’s most vulnerable families survive and recover from the coronavirus pandemic. His Trump-era predecessor, Sonny Perdue, had sought to purge hundreds of thousands of people from SNAP recipient lists.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Xavier Becerra, a health and social services candidate, told senators that strong federal leadership is needed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. He also pledged to work to expand health insurance coverage, reduce prescription drug costs and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in medical care. Currently, California Attorney General Becerra appeared on Tuesday. before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. He has a second confirmation hearing Wednesday before the finance committee, which will vote on sending his nomination to the Senate.
On Tuesday, he pledged to work to expand the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, although he previously supported a government-run system like Medicare for All.
Although Democrats backed Becerra, Republican opposition grew.
I’m not sold yet, said Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, the senior Republican on the health committee, speaking to Becerra. I am not sure you have the experience or skills to do this job at this time.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Called Becerra a partisan. As California’s attorney general, Becerra has filed 124 lawsuits challenging the actions of the Trump administration.
Representative Deb Haaland, Biden’s candidate for the head of the Home Department, answered pointed questions from Republicans about what some called her radical ideas, including opposition to fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline . balance between conservation of public lands and energy development. If confirmed, Haaland, 60, would be the first Native American to head a Cabinet agency.
Haaland’s hearing centered on her and Biden’s intentions regarding the future of fossil fuels. His hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was adjourned after nearly 2.5 hours and will resume on Wednesday.
Senator Steve Daines, R-Mont., Posted a large board with a quote from Haaland last November, before being selected as Biden’s candidate. She then said: If I had my solution, it would be great to stop all gas and oil leasing on federal and public lands.
Manchin, panel chairman and coal-dependent West Virginia Democrat, said he was undecided on Haalands’ appointment.
Responding to questions from Manchin and others, Haaland said the United States will continue to depend on fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas, even as it moves towards Bidens’ target of net emissions. zero carbon by mid-century. The transition to clean energy will not happen overnight, she said.
Associated Press editors Matthew Lee, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.
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