Republican members of the U.S. Senate fired warning shots to President-elect Joe Biden that they may be prepared to stand in the way of his Cabinet appointments, despite the long-held tradition of a new president having the right to choose who will run government agencies, Reuters informed.
The threats, from senators including Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton, highlighted the importance of a pair of runoff elections in Georgia in early January that will determine whether Republicans keep majority control of the Senate, or cede it to Democrats after six years in the minority.
On Monday, Biden’s team announced some of his Cabinet picks, including former State Department officials Antony Blinken as secretary of state and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to the United Nations and former CIA official Avril Haines as director of national intelligence.
Biden also is also expected to tap former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary.
“To the United States Senate. I hope these outstanding nominees received a prompt hearing, and that we can work across the aisle in good faith to move forward for the country,” Biden told reporters on Tuesday.
Some Senate Republicans – most of whom have yet to acknowledge Biden’s defeat of President Donald Trump or refer to Biden as president-elect – quickly condemned his picks.
Rubio, a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, which has jurisdiction over State Department nominees, wrote on Twitter that Biden’s Cabinet picks “will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline.”
Cotton quoted 2014 criticism by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates that Biden has been wrong on “nearly every” major foreign policy issue. “Now he’s surrounding himself with panda huggers who will only reinforce his instincts to go soft on China,” Cotton wrote on Twitter.
The Senate has traditionally backed most presidential nominees. But that has changed in the current era of bitter partisanship.
Influential Senate Republican John Cornyn told reporters he assumed Cabinet picks would be negotiated if Biden becomes president.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not hesitated to wield the power of his office since Republicans won Senate control in 2014. He blocked dozens of nominations from Democratic then-President Barack Obama and pushed through even some Trump nominees who faced objections from members of his own party.
“If I’m still the majority leader of the Senate, think of me as the ‘Grim Reaper’,” McConnell said last year.
McConnell opposed Yellen as Fed chair in 2013, but her years of testimony in front of congressional leaders in that role make her a known commodity on Capitol Hill.