Republican Senate signals it will confirm Biden Cabinet

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And it might be in the GOP’s best interest not to derail Biden’s Cabinet picks in the first days of his presidency. Republicans will have more than a half-dozen competitive Senate seats in play in 2022 and at best a very narrow majority next year.

“It depends who they nominate. I always worked with the Obama administration. I supported Loretta Lynch. Ask my Republican colleagues,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who is up for reelection. “We want to make sure they’re good people. But we’ll give them a fair shake.”

“It will just require negotiation,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a top McConnell ally. “If they want the Cabinet confirmed, they would be well advised to not nominate radical progressives and people that would have difficulty.”

Whether things move quickly is another story. It takes only one senator to demand roll call votes, which would delay confirmation of at least some nominees past Inauguration Day.

Trump faced heavy opposition to many of his picks, and saw only his Defense and Homeland Security secretaries confirmed on Day One. Even if Biden eventually sees his Cabinet installed, it could take awhile.

The battles over nominations infuriate both parties. Republicans still smart that filling Trump’s Cabinet was such a slog, though some of his nominees were plainly flawed and the administration did not submit paperwork quickly for others. Democrats fume over how Obama’s nominees were treated and how the GOP is ramming through judge after judge under Trump.

Biden has campaigned as someone who can restore a sense of normalcy to both the country and the Senate. Some Democrats share Murphy’s view that it’s possible; others are more pessimistic.

“Hopefully they’ll do it. I would expect they would. If they don’t, I guess it’s a whole different level of obstruction,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). “I think most people on the other side of the aisle are good people who don’t do things for political reasons.”

“I’m tempted to say they have to respect the conditions and the norms. But they haven’t respected them up until now. So I’m concerned,” added Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “Mitch McConnell’s goal in the first term was to make Obama a one-term president. He failed to do it. The same kind of obstructionist motives may be in play now.”

Tester voted for some of Trump’s Cabinet nominees, while Blumenthal opposed most of them. And since the Senate changed its rules to eliminate the 60-vote threshold on most nominees in 2013, only a simple majority is required to confirm them.

But if America ends up with a GOP Senate and a Democratic White House next year, party line votes aren’t going to cut it for Biden. Instead, the two parties will have to work together to staff Biden’s government, despite all the bitterness between them.

“If he does win, then he will have the right, I think, to a Cabinet,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who still won’t acknowledge Biden won the election. “I don’t mind voting for people I wouldn’t pick or have a different view than I do. I’m just not going to vote for a socialist.”

Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

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