Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Leaders of two key Senate panels announced Tuesday that lawmakers will hold hearings on Jan. 19 to consider President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s picks to lead the Homeland Security and Treasury Departments.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is set to hold a hearing on Jan. 19 to consider the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas, Mr. Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said late Tuesday that his panel will meet on Jan. 19 to consider Janet Yellen, Mr. Biden’s pick for Treasury Secretary.

The announcements come as Mr. Biden’s team pushes to get his national security-related picks confirmed swiftly.

Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana had said earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. Senate was failing by not quickly holding confirmation hearings for Mr. Mayorkas and other members of Mr. Biden’s national security team.

Mr. Richmond, who is leaving Congress for a job in the Biden administration, said public safety ahead of the Jan. 20 inauguration is top of mind.

“But that requires coordination,” he said on CNN. “And the biggest failure that I’ve seen so far is that the United States Senate has not held hearings on … Mr. Mayorkas.”

Mr. Richmond said that the second Mr. Biden is sworn into office, Mr. Mayorkas would be responsible “for a whole-of-government approach to making sure that these capitals are safe around the country and to make sure that D.C. is safe.”

“The fact that the Senate is not holding hearings so that we can confirm our national security members on day one is irresponsible,” he said.

Chad Wolf, who had been acting homeland security secretary, said Monday he’s stepping down and leaving Pete Gaynor, the head of FEMA, in charge of the department.

Mr. Biden has said that his nominees to lead the departments of homeland security, defense, treasury, and state need to be in their jobs “as soon as possible after January 20th.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee had already been scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing on Jan. 19 for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, Mr. Biden’s pick to lead the Pentagon.

Mr. Biden has named Antony Blinken as his pick for secretary of state.

Republicans still control the Senate schedule, but Democrats will regain an effective majority once Sens.-elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia are sworn in and Vice President-elect Sen. Kamala D. Harris can break ties in what will be a 50-50 split chamber.

“The violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th showed us we need qualified Senate-confirmed people (not in an acting capacity) in key national security positions on Day One, including Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and others,” Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York said in a letter to his colleagues on Tuesday.

The GOP-led Senate voted to confirm Gen. James Mattis as defense secretary and John Kelly as homeland security secretary hours after President Trump was sworn into office four years ago.

Senate Democrats managed to delay the confirmation of Mike Pompeo as Mr. Trump’s CIA Director for several days after the inauguration. Mr. Pompeo is now the secretary of state.

“We ought to have a debate in broad daylight, not when senators are trying to figure out if their tux is going to fit,” Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, said at the time.

The Democrat-led Senate voted to confirm six Cabinet-level nominees for former President Barack Obama on Inauguration Day in 2009.

Republicans blocked quick confirmation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was confirmed the next day on a 94-2 vote.

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