CHN: Senate picks up the pace on Biden Cabinet confirmations

The pace of Senate confirmation of President Biden’s Cabinet nominees has accelerated since the Human Needs Report’s Feb. 16 update. On March 10, the Senate confirmed three key picks – former U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; former U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland as Attorney General; and Michael S. Regan, formerly North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Fudge, the first Black woman to lead HUD in more than 40 years, has pledged to fight racial inequities in America’s housing programs. She also will be charged with providing rental assistance to households at risk of eviction proceedings. Garland had been President Obama’s choice to fill a Supreme Court vacancy; then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) infamously refused to allow hearings or a vote on his nomination. Garland’s confirmation came on a relatively easy 70-30 vote. Regan’s nomination was seen as a victory for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which wants to see aggressive action to protect against pollution, with special attention to minority and poor communities facing disproportionate threats. Regan is the first Black person to lead the agency.

In recent weeks there have been other key confirmations as well.

The Senate confirmed former Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo as Secretary of Commerce on March 2. That same day, it confirmed Cecilia Rouse as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors – a notable pick, given Rouse’s background in labor economics and her strong advocacy of federal intervention to address the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing recession.

The Senate confirmed Miguel Cardona as Secretary of Education on March 1. He previously was Connecticut’s state education chief, and has lengthy experience serving in public education. The Senate confirmed Jennifer Granholm as Secretary of Energy on Feb. 25. Granholm is a popular former two-term Governor of Michigan. And it confirmed Linda Thomas-Greenfield as Ambassador to the U.N. on Feb. 23. Thomas-Greenfield’s nomination was viewed as a morale-booster to the nation’s diplomatic corps, whose depleted ranks are said to be a result of the State Department being shunned by the Trump Administration.

The Senate confirmed Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture on Feb. 23. Vilsack, who served eight years in the same position in the Obama Administration, will address the farm and hunger crises that have been worsened by the pandemic. Vilsack will serve as keynote speaker during FRAC’s upcoming National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference, happening later this week.

Thus far, not one of Biden’s nominees has been defeated in a Senate vote. However, the White House did withdraw the nomination of Neera Tandem to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget after it appeared she could not be confirmed.

Key nominations still pending in the Senate:

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, nominated for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Becerra’s nomination faced a tie vote in committee, but has been advanced to the Senate floor by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Isabel Guzman, nominated for Administrator of the Small Business Administration. Guzman’s nomination cleared the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee on Feb. 24.

Rep. Deb Haaland, nominated for Secretary of the Interior. Haaland’s nomination cleared the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 4. She would be the first Native American Cabinet member in U.S. history.

Katherine Tai, nominated for U.S. Trade Representative. Tai’s nomination cleared the Finance Committee on March 3.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, nominated for Secretary of Labor. Walsh’s nomination cleared the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Feb. 11.