Delays in Nomination Approval Risk National Security

About the Author: Victoria Kelley is a third year law student at American University- Washington College of Law. Victoria graduated from Missouri State University and hopes to work for a Congressional office after graduating law school.

 

In the early days of the Biden Administration, the new president faces a multitude of issues. From the continuing coronavirus pandemic to the worst economic depression since the Great Depression, domestic policy will dominate first 100 days. However, another key issue regarding national security looms as well. The new administration is currently facing an incredibly slow and dangerous approval of presidential appointments by the Senate. The approval of presidential appointments originally faced a historic delay due to actions immediately following the election of, now, President Joe Biden. For nearly three weeks after the November 3rd election, the administrator of the General Services Administration delayed transition resources to the Biden Transition team for nearly three weeks.[1] This delay meant that the Biden team lost time in examining the status of government organizations, conducting background checks of potential appointees, and receiving funds to support the process. Two other current issues have the potential to delay Senate consideration of presidential appointments even further. First, the current Senate has yet to organize, despite Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agreeing to a power-sharing agreement with Majority leader Chuck Schumer.[2] The upcoming impeachment trial is also anticipated to delay consideration and approval of appointments even further.[3]

The delays in approving appointment positions threatens national security.[4] The 9/11 Commission identified a slow transition as a weakness that directly contributed to the lack of preparedness for the 9/11 attacks.[5] Congress delayed in approving President Bush’s appointments, and the Bush administration failed to adequately staff key positions for months into the new term.[6] The report concluded “that government must seek to minimize disruption of national security policymaking during the change of administrations.”[7] As of January 26, 2020, only four of President Biden’s 23 cabinet-level appointments had been confirmed by the Senate.[8] While incredibly important, several key positions related to national security have yet to be approved or even considered by the Senate.[9] Consideration of President Biden’s nominations is currently at a historic low, and could lead to a long and dangerous approval process and could leave the United States unprepared.[10] The Senate must prioritize these nominations, even when dedicating time to the upcoming impeachment, to ensure safety and security.

 

Update: This blog piece was completed on January 31, 2021. In the early morning of Myanmar (around midnight in the United States), Myanmar’s military detained democratically elected leaders and seized control of the government in a coup.[11] President Biden will have to address this issue, and the concern over the future of the already targeted Rohingya population, without a UN Ambassador.[12]   

 

[1] Kevin Breuninger, Trump administration officially begins transition to Biden after weeks of delay, CNBC (Nov. 23, 2020), at https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/23/trump-appointee-informs-biden-that-gsa-will-begin-transition-process-reports-say.html.

[2] Marianne Levine, McConnell agrees to allow Senate power-sharing to move forward, Politico (Jan. 25, 2021), at https://www.politico.com/news/2021/01/25/mitch-mcconnell-agrees-senate-filibuster-462466.

[3] See Harry Stevens, Impeachment trial threatens Biden’s already-delayed Cabinet picks amid mounting challenges, The Washington Post (Jan. 18, 2021), at https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2021/politics/biden-cabinet-timeline/.

[4] See Jim Manley, Continued delays in confirming Biden’s Cabinet risk national security and public health, Roll Call (Jan. 14, 2021), at https://www.rollcall.com/2021/01/14/continued-delays-in-confirming-bidens-cabinet-risk-national-security-and-public-health/.  

[5] Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, The Impact of the 9/11 Commission on Current Presidential Transition Planning, Center for Presidential Transition (Sep. 11, 2020), at https://presidentialtransition.org/blog/9-11-commission-on-transition-planning/.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Daniel Wolfe, Kate Sullivan, and Janie Boschma, Here’s where President Biden’s Cabinet nominees stand, CNN (Jan. 26, 2021), at https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2021/politics/biden-cabinet-confirmations-tracker/. The four positions approved so far are Secretary of Treasury (Janet Yellen), Secretary of Defense (General Lloyd Austin), Secretary of State (Anthony Blinken), and National Intelligence Director (Avril Haines).

[9] These positions include Attorney General (Merrick Garland), Secretary of Homeland Security (Alejandro Mayorkas), and UN Ambassador (Linda Thomas-Greenfield).

[10] See Harry Stevens, Impeachment trial threatens Biden’s already-delayed Cabinet picks amid mounting challenges, The Washington Post (Jan. 18, 2021), at https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2021/politics/biden-cabinet-timeline/.

[11] Myanmar coup: Aung San Suu Kyi detained as military seizes control, BBC News (Feb. 1, 2021), at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-55882489.

[12] Ruma Paul, Bangladesh expects Myanmar to keep Rohingya repatriation commitments despite coup, Reuters (Feb. 1, 2021), at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-politics-bangladesh/bangladesh-expects-myanmar-to-keep-rohingya-repatriation-commitments-despite-coup-idUSKBN2A11PI.

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