As Joe Biden continues to roll out his picks for various positions in the next administration, it’s slowly dawning on the Democrats that they’re going to run into some logistical traps during the confirmation process. It’s bad enough that their majority in the House has eroded to the point where any vote they call could be derailed by a relative handfull of defectors. On top of that, any of Biden’s nominees may still need to get past a GOP majority in the Senate during the confirmation process unless they sweep the Georgia runoffs. But things look even dicier when the person being confirmed is one of the House Democrats. Nancy Pelosi will have a hard enough time trying to push through Biden’s legislative agenda without even more of her Democratic votes disappearing into Uncle Joe’s cabinet. With that in mind, it looks like Biden will hold off on officially naming some people until replacements are found for the first Congress members that he appoints. It’s a bit awkward to say the least. (Associated Press)
President-elect Joe Biden’s decision to tap several House Democrats for administrative positions is putting Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a politically tough spot, having chiseled away at the party’s already slimming majority and leaving her potentially without enough votes to pass his legislative agenda…
“We need to manage something like this,” Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democratic whip and a top Biden ally, said in an interview with The Associated Press this week.
According to Clyburn, an emerging strategy is to stagger the confirmations: Biden would hold off on formally submitting the nominations all at once so the House numbers don’t immediately drop.
To say this was predictable is probably a waste of time because everyone was predicting it a week after the election. In mid-November, we were hearing reports that both Pelosi and Hoyer were urging their Democratic colleagues in the House not to accept a position in the Biden administration to avoid further weakening their majority. (Clearly there were several of them who ignored those pleas.) Senate Democrats are still facing a similar situation. The progressive wing of the party wants to see Bernie Sanders and/or Elizabeth Warren elevated to more influential positions. But since they are both in states with Republican governors poised to temporarily name their replacements, that’s probably not going to happen.
James Clyburn is estimating that it’s going to take “several months” to push through the confirmation of the various House Democrats who Biden wants to seat. That’s not really an unusual amount of time, but it’s definitely going to slow down the flurry of activity that Biden’s team wanted to see taking place. Status Quo Joe is also somewhat limited in his choices when scooping up House Democrats. He can’t afford to name anyone from a purple district because there’s no assurance that their seat won’t flip back to red in a special election.
One of the first examples will almost certainly be Congressman Cedric Richmond from Louisiana. He’s being tapped as one of Biden’s senior advisers so he won’t face confirmation hearings. Richmond is from the Second District where he won his last race with more than 65% of the vote, so that’s considered a safe seat. (Despite the fact that Richmond once had his law license suspended by the state supreme court for falsifying sworn statements.)
By contrast, Biden has already announced his plans to name Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge to HHS, but she’s going to have to wait for a while. Fudge represents Ohio’s Second District, where she’s traditionally either run unopposed or won with 80% or more of the vote, so that’s about as safe of a seat as one could imagine. But Biden will reportedly wait until Richmond’s seat is filled in a special election in March. There are more examples to follow.
So as it turns out, Biden may wind up getting to occupy the Oval Office, but aside from issuing executive orders (which he routinely criticized Trump for doing), he likely won’t be getting much done. And that limacine rate of progress will apparently apply to his ability to fill the ranks of his own administration.