To: Interested Parties
From: Accountable Senate War Room
Date: January 11, 2021
Re: Continued Delays to Confirmation Process of Biden Nominees Are A Threat to National Security and Public Safety
Democrats will officially take control of the Senate in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, President Trump and his allies in Congress have done everything in their power to slow down the transition and undermine President-elect Biden’s ability to hit the ground running on day one. Senate Republicans must guarantee that the will of the American people is respected and the security of our country protected by ensuring a swift nomination process for the incoming Biden administration.
The Senate is already behind in the confirmation process
President-elect Biden has less than two weeks until he’s officially sworn into office, and the Senate is already behind in the confirmation process for his incoming administration. Control of the Senate cannot be used as an excuse for delays; Republicans were always going to be in control of the Senate during the lame duck period and it was their responsibility to keep nomination processes moving forward. Right now, the Senate should be taking important steps to “advise and consent” on nominees: reviewing committee questionnaires, financial paperwork, and FBI background checks, as well as scheduling confirmation hearings. Senate Republicans must ensure a swift confirmation process for the Biden administration or risk putting our country and the safety of its citizens in jeopardy.
Yet a recent Washington Post report shows that Biden is at risk of entering office without a single confirmed Cabinet position, making this the first time a new administration would not have at least part of its national security team in place since the Cold War. By comparison, four years ago, hearings for President Trump’s national security nominees were well under way: Homeland Security (1/10/17), State (1/11/17), Attorney General (1/11/17), and Defense (1/12/17). Many of President Obama’s national security nominees had hearings on a similar timeline: State (1/13/09), Homeland Security (1/15/09), and Attorney General (1/15, 1/16/09).
So far, just one of President-elect Biden’s nominees has a hearing scheduled ahead of Inauguration Day. Meanwhile, Antony Blinken, President-elect Biden’s pick for Secretary of State, completed his paperwork before the new year but has reached a standstill with Senate Republicans as they attempt to obstruct a speedy confirmation process for the nominee. There has seemingly been no action in moving forward on Biden’s Homeland Security nominee, Alejandro Mayorkas, despite both a massive Russian cybersecurity attack and domestic insurrectionist at the U.S. Capitol in the span of weeks. Additionally, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and a “messy” vaccine rollout, it has never been more critical for an incoming administration to have a Health and Human Services Secretary ready to tackle our nation’s biggest public health challenges.
Delays mean irrevocable loss of time and American lives
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues killing thousands of Americans daily, and as we approach 400,000 deaths, American lives remain at risk if Republican senators continue to delay the confirmation process for President-elect Biden’s nominees. Hospitals are reaching capacity daily, forced to use make-shift morgues to store the overflow of bodies, and vaccine distribution is at a standstill with the potential to waste thousands of life-saving doses before they can be administered. Delays in vaccine distribution will have much larger implications than just public health: kids will be delayed from returning to safe, in-person learning and small businesses will be forced to remain closed, further risking the possibility they never reopen their doors, and so much more.
The new administration must also be prepared to inherit routine national security matters, whether it concern the safety of Americans abroad, threats from adversaries foreign and domestic, managing the National Guard, or the ever-growing threat of cyber attacks. Just weeks ago, the United States was victim to what is being deemed the “worst cyberespionage failure to date,” originating from Russia. As Trump’s reign ends, the response to this attack will likely fall on President-elect Biden and his administration, who must be ready to act on day one. Additionally, Biden’s national security team will have to investigate the massive security failure that allowed pro-Trump insurrectionists to take over the U.S. Capitol with seemingly relative ease, resulting in multiple deaths. There are still many unanswered questions, including details about the explosive devices left around our nation’s capital. Delaying the hearings for Biden’s Cabinet puts the safety of our entire country at risk. It is time for Republican senators to stop the foot-dragging and fulfill their Constitutional oath by moving forward with hearings for members of the new administration.
- HEADLINE: US: Hack of federal agencies ‘likely Russian in origin’ [AP, 1/6/2021]
- HEADLINE: As Understanding of Russian Hacking Grows, So Does Alarm [New York Times, 1/2/2021]
- HEADLINE: Four dead after pro-Trump rioters storm Capitol in violent attempt to stop confirmation of Biden’s win [CNBC, 1/7/2021]
- HEADLINE: World Leaders Are Shocked, Worried by Trump Supporters’ Actions at U.S. Capitol [Wall Street Journal, 1/7/2021]
- HEADLINE: Washington Post: “Riot in the Capitol is a nightmare scenario for cybersecurity professionals” [1/7/2021]
The stakes couldn’t be higher, and our country cannot afford to wait until January 20 to begin this process. The American people resoundingly voted for President-elect Biden’s vision of cleaning up President Trump’s messes, getting the pandemic under control, and rebuilding our economy to prioritize working families. However, since the presidential election, the Trump administration and Senate Republicans have worked to obstruct or delay the incoming Biden administration’s ability to tackle our country’s biggest national security and public health challenges right out of the gate.
- HEADLINE: Washington Post: “Biden in danger of having no confirmed Cabinet secretaries on first day of presidency” [1/8/2021]
- HEADLINE: Reuters: “Biden: Trump aides setting ‘roadblocks’ for his transition team” [12/28/2020]
- HEADLINE: Washington Post: “Biden accuses Trump appointees of obstructing transition on national security issues” [12/28/2020]
- HEADLINE: NPR: “Biden’s National Security Adviser: Pentagon Hasn’t Granted Meetings Since Dec. 18” [12/29/2020]
- HEADLINE: Roll Call: “Budget process, COVID spending being undermined by OMB, Biden transition says.” [Roll Call, 12/30/2020]
- HEADLINE: The Independent: “Senate GOP vows to block quick assembly of Biden’s Cabinet…” [The Independent, 12/17/2020]
- HEADLINE: KHN: “Senate Republicans Throw the Brakes on Timing for Becerra Hearings.” [KHN, 12/8/2020]
- HEADLINE: Bloomberg: “Republican threatens ‘brawl’ over Biden’s EPA, Interior picks.” [Bloomberg, 12/18/2020]
The American people have spoken. They overwhelmingly voted for President-elect Biden and they want him to implement his agenda of undoing the chaos and harm caused by President Trump. They want the new Administration to take the pandemic seriously and get this public health crisis under control, stop prioritizing special interests, and start building an economy that works for working families. That starts with a functioning government and Cabinet filled with experienced, highly qualified public servants. It’s time for Republican senators to stop dragging their feet, accept the will of the people, and start working with their Democratic colleagues to schedule hearings for President-elect Biden’s nominees in order to ensure a smooth transfer of power so the Biden administration can get to work for the American people on day one.
Watchdog group Accountable.US recently launched the Accountable Senate War Room to fight back against those lawmakers who seek to overturn the will of the people by standing in the way of the smooth transition of power and the swift approval of nominees to ensure that the government can function and deliver results for the American people.