The process of approving President Biden's picks to fill the top positions in his administration is moving, but slowly. This is due, in part, to delays in the transition caused by former President Trump's unwillingness to concede the election, and also because control of the Senate wasn't determined until earlier this month.
With the impeachment trial not starting until the week of February 8, the Senate has the opportunity now to make up for lost time.
Monday night, the Senate approved, in a strong bipartisan vote, the nomination of former Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen as Secretary of the Treasury. Tuesday, another bipartisan majority said 'yes' to Antony Blinken, President Biden's choice for Secretary of State.
That brings to four the number of Cabinet members the Senate has now confirmed, leaving 11 still to go. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, DHS, could be next.
"As the leader of DHS, it's pretty likely that you're going to have thousands and thousands of people coming across the border in a migrant caravan," said Sen. James Lankford, (R) Oklahoma, at last week's Senate Homeland Security Committee confirmation hearing for nominee Alejandro Mayorkas.
Sen. Lankford wanted to know how Mayorkas would handle the large numbers of asylum seekers who are currently headed to the U.S.-Mexico border. Mayorkas pointed out that migrant caravans are nothing new and that he would provide asylum only as the laws passed by Congress allow.
Lankford also spent time questioning Mayorkas on border security and specifically on the future of President Trump's border wall.
"Would you recommend any of the physical barriers on the southern border be dismantled or removed?' Lankford asked.
Mayorkas told Sen. Lankford that the border is not a monolithic challenge: "The border is varied depending on the geography, depending on the specific venue and depending on the conduct of individuals around it. And we don't need nor should we have a monolithic answer to that varied and diverse challenge."
The committee advanced the nomination to the full Senate today on a 7-4 vote. Lankford voted 'no'.
Retired General Lloyd Austin is already at work at the Pentagon as the new Secretary of Defense.
"This is a time when we really needed someone with the background of General Austin to take that position," said Sen. Jim Inhofe, (R) Oklahoma on the Senate floor last Friday.
Inhofe was still Chair of the Senate Armed Services Chair at the time of Austin's confirmation hearing last week and advocated strongly for him, even though Congress had to waive the requirement that nominees for Secretary of Defense must be ten years removed from active service. Austin has been out just seven years. Still, Sen. Inhofe told colleagues Austin is the right person for the department now, with the threats posed by China and Russia only growing.
"That's going to be the primary concern of this new administration," Inhofe stated, "and I can't think of a better person to take the helm than General Austin."
In total, there are 25 cabinet level positions, 23 of which require Senate confirmation.