Schumer calls for speedy confirmation of Biden Cabinet picks

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says the violent mob at the Capitol last week underscored the need for a swift confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s national security picks

The Jan. 6 insurrection “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, Schumer wrote.

“The economic challenges our nation faces also require having key economic nominees confirmed and on the job ASAP,” he said.

His comments were part of a broader push by Biden allies to encourage speedy confirmations of some of his top nominees.

Before confirming them, the Senate will have to hold hearings for Biden’s nominees. As of Tuesday, only two hearings were officially scheduled — for homeland security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas and defense nominee Lloyd J. Austin. Both hearings were set for Jan. 19. People familiar with the decision say treasury secretary nominee Janet Yellen will get a hearing that day as well.

Cabinet nominees need 51 votes for confirmation. Republicans currently control the upper chamber, but control will flip after the Democratic victors in two Georgia special elections are seated.

The national security posts, including Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, were already a Biden transition team priority, but the matter has only grown more urgent because of the cyber attack believed to have been carried out by Russia, the threat from domestic extremists that turned into a violent insurrection on Jan. 6 and the surprise resignation Monday of Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of DHS.

“During this period, our country is vulnerable, and we cannot afford any delays getting a national security team in place,” said Michael Daniel, who served as a special assistant and cybersecurity coordinator to President Barack Obama.

In his letter, Schumer also warned that, even as Democrats seek “to mitigate and hopefully remove the immediate and ongoing danger President Trump poses to our country,” there is a need to “remain vigilant against potential threats and future violence” ahead of the inauguration.

“Our caucus will make sure that the events are fully investigated and every necessary security measure is in place,” he wrote.

Schumer told his caucus that delivering Americans $2,000 direct COVID relief payments would be the first priority. He also laid out a laundry list of other goals, including “bold legislation to defeat the climate crisis,” efforts to fix the health care and child care systems, plans to address income inequality and the pursuit of immigration, democracy and criminal justice reform.

“When and where we can, we will strive to make this important work bipartisan,” Schumer said. But he warned that if Republican “decide not to partner with us in our efforts to address these issues, we will not let that stop progress.”

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Associated Press writers Ben Fox and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.