Five appointees of the president-elect take questions from senators Tuesday
The day before Joe Biden’s inauguration, the Senate began considering the president-elect’s picks for key administration positions. On Friday, five of Biden’s appointees are answering questions from senators.
Retired General Lloyd Austin, the nominee for secretary of defense, is appearing before the Armed Services Committee. He will need the consent of both the Senate and the House of Representatives to be confirmed in office because it has not yet been seven years since he left the armed forces, as the rules require.
It was noted earlier that Austin will likely be asked questions about plans for a military presence in Afghanistan, which President Trump recently drastically reduced. Questions about his views on threats from Iran, Russia, and China are also on the agenda.
During Alejandro Mallorcas’ confirmation hearing for Homeland Security Secretary, the recent turmoil at the Capitol will apparently be a central theme.
Mallorcas could become the first Latino to head the Department of Homeland Security.
Anthony Blinken, the nominee for secretary of state, appeared before the Foreign Relations Committee. He previously served as undersecretary of state in the Obama administration and was a longtime top aide to Biden. Texas Republican Congressman Michael McCaul urged his fellow senators to “delve into many areas of foreign policy that we’ve heard very little about from the new administration.”
Central, in this case, are questions about how Blinken intends to build relationships with key allies and deal with growing threats from Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China.
The Intelligence Committee speaks with Evryl Haynes, the nominee for director of national intelligence. If confirmed, she would be the first woman in the post. Many Democratic lawmakers have complained over the past four years about the politicization of intelligence and the lack of briefings on key developments. Many have also warned that the U.S. should be more vigilant about threats from Russia and China. Lawmakers are also wondering how the new administration plans to respond to the recent massive hacking attack that affected several government agencies.
Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner said Haynes will have to “revive the intelligence community after a dark chapter in its history.” One of the priorities, he said, is to “speak out strongly in support of the professionalism of intelligence and promise to keep politics out of the analytical process.”
Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, the nominee for Treasury secretary, is answering questions from the Finance Committee. If confirmed, she will also go down in history as the first woman to head the Treasury Department. Apparently, Yellen has bipartisan support, since many are already familiar with her reputation. The hearings are likely to discuss issues such as further economic aid for the pandemic and raising the minimum wage.
It remains to be seen how quickly these nominees will be voted on by the full Senate if they receive the approval of the appropriate committees. However, Democrats, having gained control of the Senate after the two new senators from Georgia are sworn in, are expected to act quickly.