TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Accountable Senate War Room
DATE: November 24, 2020
RE: Announcements of initial Biden administration Cabinet nominees
People across the country have spoken loud and clear: They voted for President-elect Joe Biden to put together an administration that will clean up Trump’s messes, get the pandemic under control, and make progress for workers, families, and communities. With the formal announcement of the first set of Cabinet secretary picks, President-elect Biden is taking an important step toward building an administration to deliver on this promise.
While a number of Republicans say that they plan to do the right thing and allow President-elect Biden to staff his administration, others are already signaling their intent to block nominees and sabotage the incoming administration’s agenda, regardless whether they hold the majority or not come January 2021 — and Senator Mitch McConnell and other GOP leaders still refuse to admit that President-elect Biden won the election or call on President Trump to begin the critical transition process. This comes as business leaders across the country call for a speedy and smooth transition to the incoming Biden administration to protect our democracy, economy, and public health.
As we kick this phase of the transition off and we start to hear more from Republicans in response to the incoming Biden administration’s announcements, we at the Accountable Senate War Room wanted to highlight a few points that members of the media and others should keep in mind.
Senator McConnell may have gotten away with his strategy of gridlock and obstruction in 2009, but this time is different, and people across the country will see what he is doing and he and his fellow Republicans won’t escape the blame.
We all remember Senator McConnell’s record back in 2009. When an incoming Democratic administration was faced with a possible Depression, McConnell made the decision to not lift a finger to help solve the country’s problems.
But with so many crises that need to be addressed and a clear mandate from the people to get to work tackling them, Senator McConnell and his fellow Republicans will face massive backlash if they stand with their special interest donors and allies to overturn the will of the people and sabotage the incoming administration by standing in the way of the smooth transition of power and the swift approval of nominees to staff the highest levels of government.
Senator McConnell may try to run the playbook that worked for him during President Obama’s first term, but we and many others are going to make sure people across the country know exactly what is happening and who is to blame.
Republicans may try to make this a fight about the process, but people across the country are going to learn more about the impact that delay and obstruction has on their lives and the ability of the government to help people and solve problems.
We know from past transitions how critical this period can be — perhaps nowhere more clearly evidenced than in the 9/11 Commission report which found the delayed transition following the 2000 election hampered the government’s ability to install necessary national security experts in a timely manner, leaving the country more vulnerable to attack.
The incoming administration will be faced with an array of ongoing crises that they will need to be able to act on on day one, including:
- Ensuring a smooth and safe distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and continuation of the critical work of government public health officials
- Providing relief to the tens of thousands of restaurants and small businesses on the brink of closure
- Making the additional investments needed to get our economy back on track and workers back on the job.
Senator McConnell and other Republicans have stated clearly that they believe that an incoming administration should be permitted to staff its Cabinet and that the Senate should move quickly to review and confirm nominees, and it would be the height of hypocrisy for them to change their tune now.
Republicans spent a lot of time over the past few years complaining whenever any of President Trump’s nominees were scrutinized or delayed, no matter how many conflicts of interest needed to be examined or how unqualified the nominees were for the position. We fully expect many of those same Republicans to shamelessly contradict their prior comments about the Senate’s responsibility to speedily confirm a president’s nominees, but we’re going to make sure people across the country remember what they said and hold them accountable for any reversals.
- Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “When President Obama was elected, Republicans worked across the aisle to confirm seven–seven–of his nominees on inauguration day and five more by the end of his first week.…The Senate has a longstanding tradition of confirming the Cabinet nominees of a newly elected administration in a timely fashion.”
- Sen. Ron Johnson: “An administration that is denied its nominees will be unfairly and unnecessarily crippled.”
- Sen. Lindsey Graham: “…when the election’s over, the people who won it, if they can’t have a chance to implement their view of why they ran, then the country’s going to fail.”
- Sen. James Lankford: “The Senate nomination process needs to function efficiently again. Presidents, regardless of their party, should be able to pick their staff. … Needless obstruction of that process is a failure of our duty.”
Republicans are already alluding to the additional scrutiny faced by some of President Trump’s nominees to lay the foundation to excuse any delay and obstruction of President-elect Biden’s nominees, but this would be a weak excuse and won’t hold up.
It is important to remember that the Trump administration was notoriously lax in its internal vetting process and selected nominees with unprecedented ethical issues and conflicts of interest, which meant that the Senate scrutiny and vetting process was necessarily lengthier.
Here are just a few of the stories that should remind people of the Trump administration’s rushed and incompetent Cabinet selection and vetting process:
- Politico: “Inside Trump’s freewheeling vetting operation”
- Vanity Fair: “Is Donald Trump even vetting his cabinet picks?”
- Dallas Morning News: “Why is Trump so bad at vetting his nominees?”
- Buzzfeed: “Senators are worried about how Trump is picking his cabinet secretaries”
- Washington Post: “Ethics official warns against confirmations before reviews are complete”