- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Senate confirmed President Trump’s defense and homeland security secretaries Friday, helping fill out his national security team just hours after he was sworn in — but Democrats were mounting roadblocks to the rest of the Cabinet.

Retired Marine Corps Gens. James Mattis and John F. Kelly were confirmed to lead the Defense and Homeland Security departments, but liberal senators blocked an effort to approve Rep. Mike Pompeo to lead the CIA.

It was the worst first-day treatment for any president since Ronald Reagan, who saw only one of his picks approved on his first day.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it made “no sense” to leave the CIA post open through the weekend or slow-walk other nominees, reminding the chamber that President Obama saw seven of his picks confirmed on his first day in 2009.

Yet Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said there was no need to rush on Mr. Pompeo, who could get a vote early next week, and accused Mr. Trump of selecting a conflict-ridden Cabinet billionaires and bankers whose ethics and business records require extra scrutiny.

“We intend to have a full and rigorous debate on the president’s remaining nominees,” the New York Democrat said.

Mr. Mattis was confirmed on a 98-1 vote while Mr. Kelly was approved 88-11.

Only Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrat, rejected Mr. Mattis, while all 11 “no” votes for Mr. Kelly came from Democrats.

Mr. Obama and President George W. Bush each had seven of their Cabinet-level picks approved on their first day in office while President Clinton saw three. Another 13 were confirmed the next day for Mr. Clinton.

Each of those votes was done by voice or unanimous consent, so Democrats forcing Mr. Trump’s picks to face roll call votes was unusual.

Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, hinted they were slow-walking nominees as payback, after Mr. McConnell last year refused a hearing and vote on President Obama’s pick to replace late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February.

Democrats who effectively hold 48 seats — two independents tend to side with them — are powerless to stop the nominees on their own, however, after then-Sen. Harry Reid went “nuclear” and waived the 60-vote threshold for certain nominees in 2013.

Mr. Trump needled Mr. Schumer as he formally named his team in a signing ceremony Friday, saying they would all do a “good job” and that Democrats should move things along.

“This is for Rex, I’ll assume he was approved today?” Mr. Trump said, after signing in support of former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, though he was never on Friday’s docket.

“It’s coming, though, right, Chuck?” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said.

Mr. Trump also vouched for Mr. Pompeo, who’d been floated as a possible Friday confirmation before some Democrats balked.

After some back and forth, Mr. McConnell said he’d cued up several hours of debate and a vote to confirm for Monday.

Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut had objected to Mr. Pompeo, forcing the nomination to languish over the weekend.

“No CIA Director in history has ever been confirmed on Inauguration Day,” they said in a statement. “The importance of the position of CIA Director, especially in these dangerous times, demands that the nomination be thoroughly vetted, questioned and debated.”

They said the agency can survive without a politically appointed leader for the time-being.

It’s the opposite of the claim Democrats made over the last eight years, when Republicans slow-walked some of President Obama’s picks, and Democrats said agencies needed confirmed chiefs to show leadership.

• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide