Two of President Trump’s nominations for cabinet positions were confirmed today. From Fox News:
Mattis was approved by a vote of 98-1. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was the lone vote against. Kelly was approved 88-11. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., did not vote on either Kelly or Mattis. Sessions has been nominated to be Attorney General.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also tried to begin debate on Rep. Mike Pompeo’s nomination as CIA Director following the Mattis and Kelly votes, but Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., objected. Instead, the Senate was set to begin the Pompeo debate on Monday.
CNN points out that incoming President Obama had 7 nominees confirmed on his first day back in 2009:
The two Inauguration Day confirmations were fewer than the seven targeted by the Trump transition team. They had hoped to meet the number that President Barack Obama had on his Inauguration Day, but Senate Democrats have objected to many of Trump’s nominees.
In the case of Gen. Mattis, a special waiver had to be passed to allow him to become Sec. Def. without waiting the usual 7 years post-retirement. From the Washington Post:
Mattis is one of the most influential military officers of his generation, retiring from the Marine Corps in 2013 as the four-star chief of U.S. Central Command after a career in which he led troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In his Jan. 12 confirmation hearing, he said he never anticipated he would be nominated for the job and was “enjoying a full life west of the Rockies” when Trump asked to meet with him.
“I was not involved in the presidential campaign, and I was certainly not seeking or envisioning a position in any new administration,” Mattis said. “That said, it would be the highest honor if I am confirmed to lead those who volunteer to support and defend the constitution and to defend our people.”
To allow Mattis [to] become defense secretary, Congress passed legislation to overcome a law first passed in 1947 that banned recent veterans from the positon. For decades, there was a 10-year moratorium; it was reduced to seven years in 2008. The waiver for Mattis passed 81-17 in the Senate, and then 268 to 151 in the House.
Here’s Sen. Gillibrand explaining her opposition to the waiver for Gen. Mattis: