Three new senators were sworn into office after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate.
In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden’s nominee for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening on Wednesday and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member.
Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10.
The new Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, urged his colleagues to get the new president’s agenda done.
Vice President Kamala Harris delivered the oath of office to the new senators — Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla — just hours after taking her own oath alongside Biden.
The three Democrats complete a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote.
Ossoff, a former congressional aide, and Warnock, a pastor from Atlanta, won runoff elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans.
Padilla was chosen by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term.
“Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.”
Their arrival gives Democrats control of the Senate, the House and the White House for the first time in a decade.
Congress is being called on to consider Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus recovery package.
At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, charged by the House with inciting insurrection as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College certification and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will also have to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees.
Haines’ nomination was temporarily blocked by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas as he sought information about the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program.
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri is delaying confirmation of the Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over Biden’s proposed immigration changes.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, in his first speech as the minority party leader, said the election results showed that Americans “intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power.”
The Republican leader said he looked forward to working with the new president “wherever possible.”
At her first White House briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said the confirmation of Cabinet members is “front and center for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place by Thursday or Friday.
Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the coronavirus relief package.
Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate.
McConnell is pressuring Schumer to preserve the Senate filibuster, a procedural tool used to block legislation that requires 60 votes to advance. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s agenda, but not all Senate Democrats are on board.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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