iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — As President Trump made his way down the inauguration parade route, the Senate was already back at work getting his Cabinet in place.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis was the first nominee confirmed by the Senate with a 98-1 vote. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was the sole “no” vote, and Sen. Pete Sessions, R-Ala., did not vote.
Senators are also set to vote on Gen. John Kelly for secretary of Homeland Security on Friday.
But there’s disagreement between parties on a third possible confirmation vote today — that of Rep. Mike Pompeo to be CIA director.
Three Democrats are threatening to delay the vote because they want more time to debate it. They also have objections to things like his views on government surveillance, but these concerns are about the amount of time they can rail against him on the Senate floor — not over new revelations about his record or positions.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is also on their side, sending a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, in his capacity as the head of the Trump transition team, requesting that he ask current CIA Director John Brennan to stay on through the weekend. It is unclear whether the transition team is considering this.
But as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noted Friday as he convened the Senate for the first time during the Trump administration that Brennan and his deputy have already submitted their resignations.
“They resigned. They left. They’re gone,” McConnell said.
Plus, Republicans note, the Senate sped through seven confirmation votes for President Obama’s Cabinet on Inauguration Day in January 2009. And, they note, all those votes were voice votes, not recorded ones, which go much faster and don’t require senators to go on the record about their positions.
Democrats want recorded votes on these nominees, which Republicans are arguing is a bit of a show of bad faith because they’re not speeding Trump’s nominees through as quickly as they did Obama’s when he first took office.
So, where do we go from here?
Senate leaders debated the Pompeo issue behind closed doors Friday afternoon before they get to the actual votes that are supposed to happen later.
McConnell suggested Republicans might be willing to resolve the problem in a way that Democrats might accept, but will cause discomfort for everyone after a long Inauguration Day: schedule the floor debate for Friday, well into the evening, and then try again to schedule a vote for late Friday or early Saturday morning.
“I’m told we want to have some debate about this. We’ll have as much debate time starting right now as our Democratic colleagues would like, but at the end of the debate [Friday], not Monday, we should install a new CIA director,” McConnell said.
As the Senate is expected to get back to business, it’s still not clear how much of Trump’s Cabinet will be in place by the end of the day.
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