WASHINGTON: The United States Senate on Tuesday (Feb 23) easily confirmed two more of Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees as the president fills out his inner circle, although another pick was facing mounting opposition.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a former career diplomat, earned confirmation to be US ambassador to the United Nations on a 78-20 vote.
The 68-year-old African-American woman has pledged to fight China’s global influence, saying in her confirmation hearing last month that Beijing’s “authoritarian agenda” runs counter to UN values.
The Senate then comfortably green-lighted Tom Vilsack, 70, to be secretary of agriculture, a post he held throughout Barack Obama’s administration.
While Biden’s key nominees like secretaries of state, treasury and defence have been confirmed, his Cabinet remains less than half full.
READ: US Senate confirms Biden’s choice for UN ambassador
READ: US Senate approves Vilsack for Agriculture Department again
Some picks face resistance, notably Neera Tanden, whose nomination to be White House budget director is imperilled in the evenly divided Senate.
With multiple Republican moderates and at least one Democrat, centrist Senator Joe Manchin, opposing her confirmation, the chances of securing sufficient support have dimmed for Tanden.
But Biden was for now sticking by Tanden, whose past social media posts have targeted conservatives and progressives alike.
“We’re going to push. We still think there’s a shot,” Biden told reporters on Tuesday about Tanden, a 50-year-old daughter of Indian immigrants.
Another minority woman, rising progressive star Deb Haaland, would become the first Native American to serve in a presidential Cabinet if she is confirmed as interior secretary.
Haaland, 60, endured tough questioning from Republicans in her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, and Manchin has reportedly said he remained undecided about her.
Also under fire was Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general whom Biden tapped for health secretary.
“We will study Mr Becerra’s testimony today, but I find it hard to see how such a radical and underqualified candidate could take such a crucial position at such a critical time” during the COVID-19 pandemic, top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said.
With the Senate split 50-50, Democrats would need Vice President Kamala Harris’ vote in the event of a tie.