Senate Democrats are distancing themselves from calls by progressives for President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump campaign files for new recount in Georgia GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results Judge dismisses Trump camp’s Pennsylvania lawsuit in scathing ruling MORE to play hardball with Republicans over his Cabinet picks.
Facing the prospect of a GOP-controlled Senate, progressive groups argue Biden should try to leapfrog Republicans if Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDivided citizenry and government — a call to action for common ground Prioritizing COVID relief: How to break the stalemate Trump nominee’s long road to Fed may be dead end MORE (R-Ky.) blocks a nominee or refuses to even allow a floor vote by utilizing the Vacancies Act or trying to force Congress to adjourn.
Democratic senators say the groups shouldn’t assume Republicans will be complete obstructionists in the event Democrats fail to win the two runoff races in Georgia on Jan. 5 and Republicans retain control of the chamber.
Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsBiden decides on pick for secretary of State Trump keeps tight grip on GOP amid divisions Bipartisan pair of Senators call on Egypt to address case of imprisoned human rights advocate MORE (D-Del.), a close Biden ally, said Democrats shouldn’t “get ahead of ourselves” by expecting the worst about the confirmation process.
“I think our immediate challenge is getting President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump campaign files for new recount in Georgia GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results FDA grants emergency approval to coronavirus antibody treatment given to Trump MORE to accept reality and the Republican majority to begin the sort of outreach and consultation that I suspect the incoming administration would welcome to figure out who is appropriate to move forward for confirmation,” he said.
“You know, the suggestions that we should leap ahead and assume that no one can get confirmed and that we should use some extraordinary measures is just getting a little bit ahead of ourselves,” he added.
Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyBiden decides on pick for secretary of State Overnight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses Senators move to block Trump’s B UAE arms sale MORE (D-Conn.) added that the scenario envisioned by progressives makes assumptions about the outcome of the Georgia races and McConnell’s actions.
“Let’s just wait,” Murphy said. “My hope is that progressive groups focus on one thing at a time, and right now, we should be focused on winning Georgia.”
The battle lines on potential Cabinet picks come as Biden is expected to name his choices for key roles. Those picks could test the preelection truce between the president-elect and progressives, who are jockeying for influence in the new administration.
Biden has already said that he’s made a decision on one key position, his Treasury secretary, pledging that it would be someone palatable to progressives and moderates alike. A list of front-runners for other top positions, such as secretary of State, have been circulating in Washington for weeks.
But progressives, who lined up behind Biden to help defeat Trump earlier this month, are urging him to make bold choices for his Cabinet picks, powerful positions that will shape significant policy decisions in the administration.
Two top progressive groups — Justice Democrats and the Sunrise Movement — released a wish list earlier this month for Cabinet picks that included Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSirota says possible Biden pick could raise prospect of Social Security cuts Young conservatives won’t back down from the climate conversation under Biden Democrats must turn around MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenAlito to far-right litigants: The buffet is open House Democrats back slower timeline for changing Confederate base names On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds MORE (D-Mass.), who could face a rocky, potentially impossible, path to confirmation in a GOP-controlled Senate.
They also floated Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeTop contender for Biden Defense chief would be historic pick Overnight Defense: 5 US service members killed in international peacekeeping helicopter crash in Egypt | Progressives warn Biden against Defense nominee with contractor ties | Trump executive order to ban investment in Chinese military-linked companies Progressive House Democrats urge Biden against Defense chief with contractor ties MORE (D-Calif.) to serve as secretary of State and Reps. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibGOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican ‘Squad’ called ‘The Force’ OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (D-Mich.) and Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalTrump, attorneys step up efforts to reverse election’s outcome AOC, progressive Dems attack corporate greed during health care discussion Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election MORE (D-Wash.) as potential nominees to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
Sanders — who has publicly confirmed his interest in being Labor secretary — told The Associated Press that “progressive views need to be expressed” within the new administration.
“It would be, for example, enormously insulting if Biden put together a ‘team of rivals’ — and there’s some discussion that that’s what he intends to do — which might include Republicans and conservative Democrats — but which ignored the progressive community. I think that would be very, very unfortunate,” Sanders added.
But a GOP-controlled Senate awaits as a likely landmine for progressive picks. Even though a Republican majority would be capped at 51 or 52 seats, McConnell would have leverage to block any nominees he or a majority of his caucus considered too far to the left.
Progressives say that’s why Biden should be willing to play hardball.
“All personnel must have demonstrated that they prioritize the needs of communities of color and service in the public interest. If necessary, we urge you to accomplish this by using tools like the Vacancy Act and recess appointments to overcome any obstruction by Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans,” nearly 60 progressive and good government groups wrote in a letter to Biden.
Indivisible, one of the groups, detailed its own vision for how Biden gets his desired Cabinet, saying he should “use a play from Donald Trump’s playbook.”
Trump has used the Vacancies Act and tapped “acting” appointments to get around the Senate confirmation process for key posts. He also briefly floated forcing Congress to adjourn so that he could make recess appointments — something legal experts quickly said he couldn’t do because there was no disagreement between the House and Senate.
Though legally untested, Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution grants a president the power to “on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper.”
Asked if he thought those two options should be on the table, Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinEnding Trump’s transactional arrogance on our public lands President is wild card as shutdown fears grow Biden picks Obama communications director to lead confirmation team: report MORE of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, replied, “I hope they are not. I hope we get back to a normal chain of events, and I hope the Republicans are reasonable.”
Pressed if he would be comfortable with Biden using the options if Republicans prove problematic, Durbin demurred, calling it a “hypothetical on top of a hypothetical.”
McConnell in 2015 temporarily held up former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s nomination and in 2016 ignored Judge Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandMerrick Garland on list to be Biden’s attorney general: report Defusing the judicial confirmation process Conservative justices help save ObamaCare — for now MORE, then-President Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee.
McConnell hasn’t publicly acknowledged Biden’s election victory, much less publicly discussed potential Cabinet picks. Asked about the chance that a GOP-controlled Senate would confirm Sanders or Warren, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneOvernight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump keeps tight grip on GOP amid divisions Trump’s controversial Fed nominee stalled after Senate setback MORE (R-S.D.) sidestepped, calling it premature.
Republicans have bristled for years over Democrats’ handling of Trump’s Cabinet. Trump got only two Cabinet picks confirmed on the first day of his presidency, compared with six for Obama and seven for then-President George W. Bush. By Feb. 10, Trump had seven confirmed Cabinet members confirmed to Obama’s 12 and Bush’s 14, which was his entire Cabinet.
“I do think that what has been, I think, a historically unprecedented effort to keep the government from being staffed … will have repercussions,” said Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyRush Limbaugh lauds Hawley: ‘This guy is the real deal’ Trump told advisers he could announce 2024 bid shortly after certification of Biden win: report Trump, Pence, Haley top GOP 2024 betting odds at Bovada MORE (R-Mo.).
“I think that means that this next administration, if it’s a Biden administration, will not get a free ride,” he said, predicting that the dynamic would play out not only with Cabinet picks but also with sub-Cabinet-level nominations.
Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Trump’s cyber firing stirs outrage MORE (R-Fla.) added that “there’ll be a lot less deference given to presidential appointments.”
“There’s just no way that Biden’s nominations are going to be treated like they traditionally have been treated under previous presidents, simply because the atmosphere in the Senate has changed,” he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
But other GOP senators, including Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results Trump nominee’s long road to Fed may be dead end Money can’t buy the Senate MORE (Maine), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities Cyber agency urges employees not to lose focus in wake of director’s firing GOP breaks with Trump firing of cyber chief: Adds to ‘confusion and chaos’ MORE (Ohio) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results Trump nominee’s long road to Fed may be dead end The Memo: Trump plows ahead with efforts to overturn election MORE (Utah), have indicated they would be willing to give Biden a Cabinet as long as the picks were within the mainstream.
“I think most members of the Senate would be pretty responsible,” said Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsTrump keeps tight grip on GOP amid divisions Hillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software GOP breaks with Trump firing of cyber chief: Adds to ‘confusion and chaos’ MORE (R-S.D.). “There’s some individuals that naturally would not philosophically be acceptable within a Republican Senate. At the same time, there are some nominees that we’ve heard of who might very well be pretty easy nominations within the Senate.”