WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders, the progressive independent of Vermont, has emerged as a candidate for secretary of state in the administration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., a prospect that fits his ambitions of being a warrior for working Americans – and a it makes some Senate Republicans very uneasy.
“I think it’s someone we know is an ideologue, and it would be very unlikely that he would be confirmed in a Republican Senate,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, one of several Republicans, who said Mr. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, would probably not win the House̵
It is a testament to the deterioration of the Senate’s confirmation process that a longtime colleague – even one whom they strongly oppose – would face such a Republican roadblock. In the not-too-distant past, other senators were given considerable leeway from the opposing party if elected to join the executive.
“The truth is, as far as I know, there has been a courtesy in the Senate that when a president nominates senators, they have been approved,” Sanders said in an interview.
The growing senatorial opposition to Sanders, even before any formal action by the new administration reflects the formidable task that Biden faces. Should Republicans stick to their Senate majority next year, Mr. Biden be the first president since George Bush in 1989 to enter office without his party controlling the hall and directing the confirmation process. And this process has grown much more toxic, to the point where senators routinely engage in almost blanket opposition to the election of a president from the opposite party – if they allow consideration at all.
“It’s a kind of unknown waters,” said Lindsay M. Chervinsky, a presidential historian and author of a book on George Washington’s cabinet. “For most of history, the Senate has given presidents, especially presidential presidents, a broad berth. They usually give the president the one they want. ”
There is no security today. Some Republicans who need to win at least one of the two elections to the Senate in Georgia on January 5 to keep their slim majority have already made it clear that they are not eager to give Mr. Bite a lot of leeway when it comes to nominees. They note the Democrats’ efforts over the past four years to block President Trump’s election and to force Republicans to clear every time-consuming procedural hurdle, even when the end result was inevitable.
“I can assure you that there will not be one set of rules for Donald Trump, and if Joe Biden joins, another set of rules for him,” Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican in Arkansas, said this week on Hugh’s radio program Hewitt. a conservative host. “What the Democrats have done in the last four years, if it’s good for the goose, it’s also good for gander.”
Other Republicans – including Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – have indicated they would be willing to back Mr. Biden’s election, as long as they were considered ordinary, recognizing that a Democratic president is eligible for election that sympathy with his views.
They and other Republicans say potential candidates who could pass this test include Sen. Doug Jones, the Alabama Democrat who lost his re-election offer this month; Anthony Blinken, a longtime Biden foreign policy adviser; and Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat and a Biden confidant.
But the overall stance appears to be skeptical, and Republican senators have signaled that instead of feeling a burden to give the president his team, it is entirely up to Biden to find nominees who can model them. . In addition to Mr. Sanders, Republicans have also indicated they would reject nominations from Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat in Massachusetts, and Susan Rice, the former national security adviser to President Barack Obama.
Not only the top slots are in doubt. The Senate must also confirm many other nominees for lower-level executive branches who are critical of running scattered agencies.
If Republicans hold on, it will be up to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, who refused at all to consider Mr. Obama’s 2016 Supreme Court nominee putting nominations on the floor. He is not someone who takes steps that do not have broad support from Republican senators and party voters.
The transition of the President
“I hope McConnell does not put anyone on the floor who has strong opposition in the Republican election rally and with the Republican base,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby, the Republican in Alabama.
Just nine cabinet candidates have been rejected by the Senate, while 15 others were withdrawn when confirmation-threatening issues emerged. High-profile defeats included John Tower, Mr. Bush’s election as Secretary of Defense, whose nomination failed in the hands of his one-time Senate colleagues, cited character flaws. He was the last cabinet candidate to be directly defeated and the first former senator to be rejected.
Despite such rare exceptions, the top presidential elections historically won fairly easy and quick approval as new administrations took shape and legislators wanted to ensure government continuity and sometimes confirm cabinet secretaries by unanimous agreement without a vote. As recently as Mr. Obama’s first term, which began in 2009, saw several nominees approved by ballot on the day he was inaugurated. Hillary Clinton was confirmed as Secretary of State in a 94-2 vote on Mr. Obama’s first full day as president.
But the process has become more and more ugly as partisanship has risen in the last decade. Much of the focus has been on legal appointments and their lifespan, but jobs in the executive department are also caught in the crossfire. After taking control of the Senate in 2015, Republicans slowly moved some Obama nominees to executive and ambassadorial positions, reluctantly allowing a 56-43 approval for Loretta Lynch as Attorney General after months of delay and debate.
Still simmering over the Republican decision to stone the Supreme Court appointment of Judge Merrick B. Garland in 2016 and considering many of Mr. Trump’s nominees unqualified and unfit, Senate Democrats laid the obstacles they could to register their objections.
During the Democratic presidential election, Senate candidates proudly emphasized the number of candidates for the Trump administration they opposed. Similarly, Senate Republicans at the 2022 ballot or considering a run for the presidency in 2024 may be reluctant to be considered too cooperative with the Biden administration for fear of angering supporters or encouraging primary opposition.
Officials with the Biden transition say they are optimistic that the caliber of the next president’s election, his own knowledge of the Senate and the need to confront the coronavirus pandemic will help them move their choices through the polarized chamber.
“His nominees will be experienced, skilled and ready to hit the ground on Day 1,” said Kate Bedingfield, a spokeswoman for the transition. “The American people voted for the Biden-Harris ticket in historic numbers, and they expect the Senate to allow the president-elect to put together the competent team he needs to fight this virus and get the economy back on track.”
They also say they are under no illusions about the potential difficulties ahead. They are assembling a strong team to build public support for their nominees, though the case of Judge Garland showed that Republicans do not easily give in to such pressure.
Some Democrats and their progressive allies say that if Mr. Biden is frustrated in personnel matters, he should bypass the Senate and name acting chiefs of staff, as Mr. Trump often did, or use his power to install nominees when Congress is at recess. However, the Supreme Court and Senate proceedings have combined significantly narrowed the chances of appointments in the recession, and acting officials do not carry the same strength as those confirmed by the Senate.
Members of the incoming administration and the Senate Democrats much prefer to have Mr. Biden’s choice to win the full stamp of approval in the Senate, and that includes all Democratic senators running for office if Mr. Biden decides to go in that direction.
“I hope and expect that there will at least be a number of Republican senators who understand that it is the incumbent president’s power to nominate candidates to his liking,” Sanders said. “And that they would respect that.”