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President Biden’s historic Cabinet nominees begin to hit snags in the Senate

Several of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees may not be confirmed in the Senate because of their past outspokenness and policy positions

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Xavier Becerra speaks during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of Health and Human Services before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Leigh Vogel, Pool via Associated Press

During the first month of his presidency, the confirmation of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees went without a snag. But this week, the honeymoon phase appears to be over.

To win confirmation as Biden’s closest advisers, the nominees need to be approved by a majority vote in the Senate.

And as those nominees’ backgrounds, previous policy positions and past outspokenness begins to face scrutiny in the Senate, Republicans — and even moderate Democrats — have begun to express their hesitation and disapproval toward several of Biden’s picks.

Here is who could get held up during the Senate confirmation process:

Health and Human Service

On Monday, a coalition of Senate and House Republicans sent a letter to Biden asking that he withdraw his nomination of Xavier Becerra as health and human services secretary. The nominee, if confirmed, would be the first Latino to lead HHS.

“Mr. Becerra’s lack of healthcare experience, enthusiasm for replacing private health insurance with government-run Medicare-for-all, and embrace of radical policies on immigration, abortion, and religious liberty, render him unfit for any position of public trust, and especially for HHS Secretary,” the GOP members wrote.

Becerra is currently serving as the attorney general of California, where he was previously a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for more than two decades. He has said his Catholic faith is his “North Star” to guide his morals and ethics.

According to the conservative publication the National Review, the nominee would likely “reinstate a version of the Obamacare contraceptive mandate compelling all employers ... to subsidize contraception and abortion-inducing drugs” and, in the past, has “opposed legislation barring government officials from punishing health care providers who refuse to participate in abortion.”

Interior Department

Congresswoman Deb Haaland, D-N.M., would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary, but her nomination to lead the Interior Department isn’t a sure thing.

Some Republicans and Democrats have signaled that they may oppose Haaland’s nomination, citing her “opposition to new oil and gas drilling on federal lands — a position she shares with President Biden,” The Washington Post reported. The nominee is also opposed to hydraulic fracking — a process to extract natural grass that creates large amounts of pollution — but fracking is important to the economies of “states represented by the Democratic chairman and the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee,” according to the Post.

In January, a group of House Republicans sent Biden a letter requesting he withdraw Haaland’s nomination, calling it a “direct threat to working men and women and a rejection of the responsible development of America’s natural resources.”

“Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land,” Haaland said on Twitter after being nominated. “I am honored and ready to serve.” She was elected to her second House term in November.

Office of Management and Budget

Biden’s pick of Neera Tanden, the outspoken president and CEO of the liberal-leaning think tank the Center for American Progress, appeared to be upended this weekend after moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, said he wouldn’t support Tanden’s nomination.

Since then, Republican senators that may have voted for the nominee — like Maine’s Susan Collins or Utah’s Mitt Romney — have also said they would not endorse Tanden.

“Sen. Romney has been critical of extreme rhetoric from prior nominees, and this is consistent with that position. He believes it’s hard to return to comity and respect with a nominee who has issued a thousand mean tweets,” said Romney spokeswoman Arielle Mueller, Deseret News reported.

If confirmed, which is beginning to seem unlikely, Tanden would be the first Indian-American to lead the OMB.

Already confirmed

Eight of Biden’s Cabinet picks have already been confirmed, according to a Politico tracker and The Associated Press:

  • Anthony Blinken, secretary of state.
  • Lloyd Austin, secretary of defense.
  • Janet Yellen, secretary of treasury.
  • Pete Buttigieg, secretary of transportation.
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of homeland security.
  • Denis McDonough, secretary of veterans affairs.
  • Avril Haines, director of national intelligence.
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Two more of the president’s nominees are expected to be confirmed in the next month, The Wall Street Journal reported. Those include Tom Vilsack as secretary of agriculture and Merrick Garland as U.S. attorney general.