Biden Leads Predecessors in Nominations, Lags Behind in Confirmations

Biden Leads Predecessors in Nominations, Lags Behind in Confirmations

WASHINGTON—President Biden has nominated agency heads and leadership throughout the federal government at a faster clip than his recent predecessors. But a large portion of the president’s choices await Senate confirmation.

More than four months into his presidency, Mr. Biden has made 244 cumulative nominations to Senate-confirmed positions, more than double the number made by President

Donald Trump

at this stage of the administration, according to data compiled by the Center for Presidential Transition. The pace of Mr. Biden’s nominations for the roughly 1,200-Senate confirmed positions has also surpassed those of Presidents

Bill Clinton,

George W. Bush


Barack Obama.

But while Mr. Biden’s cabinet nominees were confirmed relatively quickly, he trails those three in overall Senate confirmations at this point of his presidency, clearing 53 of his nominees so far. The lack of Senate-confirmed leaders throughout the government can lead to delays in implementing executive actions and initiatives within federal agencies, with some cabinet-level departments led by secretaries and deputy secretaries at this stage and many key positions filled with acting leadership.

Through the end of May of their first year in office, Mr. Clinton had 151 confirmations, Mr. Obama had secured 145 and Mr. Bush had 126, according to Center for Presidential Transition data. Through the same time frame, Mr. Trump had received 42 Senate confirmations.

The swearing in ceremony for Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary, on March 18.


Shawn Thew/Bloomberg News

Mr. Biden is expected to unveil as soon as this week a slate of nominees to serve as ambassadors around the globe. The group is expected to include

Morgan Stanle

y executive

Tom Nides

in Israel, veteran diplomat

R. Nicholas Burns

in China, Los Angeles Mayor

Eric Garcetti

in India and former Interior Secretary

Ken Salazar

in Mexico, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Mr. Biden, who campaigned on forming a government that “looks like America,” has pointed to the diversity of his selections such as Treasury Secretary

Janet Yellen,

the first woman to lead the department, and Interior Secretary

Deb Haaland,

the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary. He has the first majority nonwhite cabinet and a dozen women in cabinet-rank positions, the most of any administration.

“These are firsts and they’re pathbreaking appointments,” said

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas,

a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has studied presidential personnel.

Mr. Biden’s nominations have faced an unusual set of circumstances. The formal start of the transition was slowed by Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept the election results.


Do you think the Senate’s slow confirmation process is because of partisan issues or is it a sign of Senate dysfunction? Join the conversation below.

In the Senate, Democrats didn’t secure a majority until early January, when two Georgia Senate runoff elections ended in victory for Democrats. Those contests resulted in a 50-50 Senate with Vice President

Kamala Harris

breaking ties, and a fight over how to share power delayed until February the organizing resolution that laid out how committees would operate.

Once that was settled, Democrats have had to use a special maneuver to discharge nominations from committees because tie votes on nominations don’t automatically advance to the Senate floor.

Mr. Biden’s nominations also had to compete with an impeachment trial and the passage of a new round of spending on the coronavirus during the beginning of the year.

“With everything else going on, the Senate has confirmed President Biden’s cabinet faster than during both of the prior two administrations, one a Democrat and one a Republican,” said Majority Leader

Chuck Schumer

(D., N.Y.) on the Senate floor in March.

During its transition, Mr. Biden’s team prepared an extensive list of senior staff, most not needing Senate confirmation, to deploy throughout the government.

As a result, Mr. Biden had more than 1,100 political appointees sworn in on the day of his inauguration. More than 50 nominees who required Senate confirmation were announced before he took the oath of office.

A permanent director of the Office of Management and Budget has yet to be named after Neera Tanden’s nomination was withdrawn.


Anna Moneymaker/Press Pool

Mr. Biden won confirmation for all of his cabinet secretaries and nearly all of his cabinet-level positions by late March and marked the occasion by holding his first cabinet meeting in April. But the process of filling out his government and winning Senate confirmation for some of his choices remains a major task as the administration enters its first summer.

“You can’t think about the Senate and not factor in time, effort, [and] political capital for nominations,” said

Reema Dodin,

the deputy director of the White House’s Office of Legislative Affairs.

Many of Mr. Biden’s nominees have received Republican support, and analysts said the moving of nominees through the confirmation process has been less a partisan issue than an issue of Senate dysfunction. Senators approving nominees by unanimous consent or through voice votes are less common and floor time to debate nominees is limited, they said.

“The Senate is a small pipe down which we are trying to force too much material. Predictably it is now clogged,” said

Max Stier,

the president and CEO of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service. Mr. Stier has supported the reduction in the number of Senate-confirmed positions, which was last approved in Congress in 2012.

The president’s team is still dealing with significant vacancies. The nomination of

Neera Tanden,

Mr. Biden’s choice to lead the Office of Management and Budget, was withdrawn in March amid criticism from senators over her past comments on social media. Mr. Biden hasn’t yet nominated a permanent OMB director;

Shalanda Young,

who was confirmed to be the agency’s deputy, serves as acting director.

Ms. Tanden recently joined the administration as a senior adviser, a position that doesn’t require Senate approval.

Mr. Biden’s team won Senate confirmation last week for

Kristen Clarke

to serve as assistant attorney general for civil rights. Vacancies remain for deputy secretaries at Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, along with undersecretaries at the State and Defense departments.

Mr. Biden hasn’t yet announced nominations for posts such as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center and Treasury undersecretaries for international affairs.

A Look at Some of Biden’s Cabinet Members

Write to Ken Thomas at

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Source: WSJ – US News

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