Senator Chuck Grassley signaled on Thursday that he and other Senate Republicans will reject President-elect Joe Biden’s request for them to quickly confirm his Cabinet selections so he can hit the ground running after his inauguration.
“Democrats are always lecturing Republican senators about approving future Biden Cabinet nominees even if we don’t agree with them. Now, that’s pretty darn rich,” the Iowa Republican said in a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday.
Mr Grassley pointed out that the Senate Democratic minority in 2017 prevented Donald Trump from quickly assembling his Cabinet, blocking fast-track voice votes and only letting Republicans breeze through the process for roll call votes on two nominees.
“I don’t want retaliation for its own sake, but the threat of holding Democrat senators to their own standards has been our only means of deterrence of obstruction. I want to hear from Democrats why we should not now adopt their standards and vote down nominees based on politics,” Mr Grassley said.
Democratic Minority Whip Richard Durbin, one of the chamber’s most reverent observants of its decorous traditions, responded that he looks forward to “working with my friend from Iowa, and I take heed of his warning that we will hold these nominees to the same standards as we held President Trump’s nominees.”
But Mr Durbin said the holdup for many of the outgoing president’s early nominees were over “very basic things” like failing to file complete financial disclosure forms and ethics reports, “which are expected of all Cabinet nominees.”
The White House office responsible for vetting senior advisers initially denied clearances to several top Trump aides, denials the president’s team allegedly overruled.
“I don’t expect. President-elect Biden to cut any corners. I expect his nominees to follow the rules, and the law, and I’m hoping that they will have bipartisan support when they come to the Senate,” Mr Durbin said on Thursday. “I want to give this president chance to get off to a good, solid start, and he’s going to need it. We are in the midst of this pandemic. The numbers rolling in every single day are frightening.”
Mr Durbin said his GOP colleagues are well within their rights to cross-examine the incoming Democratic president’s Cabinet selections.
But some, such as former Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, Mr Biden’s pick to be secretary of the Treasury, have flown through the Senate confirmation process for previous appointments.
“They have every right to expect these nominees to answer the very basic questions that are required. But I hope that they’ll also do their best to expedite that process so that those going into critical positions to keep our country safe from this pandemic are in place, as well as those who are going to serve our nation in critical capacities, whether it’s Secretary of State or attorney general or [leading] the Department of Homeland Security,” Mr Durbin said.