By Jacob Bielanski
Following the Electoral College vote confirming Biden’s win, the Oregon senator said it would be "unprecedented and dangerous" to not have key picks confirmed "on or soon after" inauguration.
Ranking Senate Democrat Ron Wyden (D-Ore) sent a letter on December 15 asking the Senate Finance Committee to begin working to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet picks, particularly for the Treasury and Health and Human Services (HHS), following the official vote casting of the Electoral College.
"I have respected your apparent decision to delay the consideration of President-elect Biden’s anticipated nominees until the Presidential electors have been certified and cast their ballots," Wyden wrote. "Any further delay would be unprecedented and dangerous."
Wyden further suggested it would be legislative malpractice to not "promptly" consider the President-elect’s nominees, particularly in the areas related to the vaccine rollout and the economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden announced his pick for Treasury Secretary, former Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen, on November 30 and his pick of California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, to lead HHS a week later. The pick of Yellen drew bipartisan praise, as finance committee Republicans in the House of Representatives made statements of support (see Banking and Finance Law Daily, Dec. 1, 2020).
The recent letter from Wyden to Committee Chair Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) noted the timetable for previous Administrations’ treasury picks typically began before mid-December in order to have them confirmed prior to the January 20 inauguration. Specific examples included President Bill Clinton’s picks for Treasury and HHS secretaries--confirmed on January 12 and 14, respectively—as well as current Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who was confirmed the day before the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
"As you have said, ‘the President must be allowed to put his cabinet in place to do the job he was duly elected to perform,’" said Wyden, referring to comments allegedly made by Grassley, in the letter. "That is particularly true now."
Wyden urged the Senate to move quickly, noting the "extensive preliminary work" necessary even before an expedited hearing schedule. The Senate’s nomination questionnaire for Mnuchin, he said, was delivered by November 28, nearly two months prior to the inauguration in 2017. He argued for a goal of holding committee hearings by mid-January for Becerra and Yellen, so they would be ready for Senate consideration "on or soon after" inauguration.
Wyden’s letter was also sent to Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Iowa).
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