By MICHELLE STODDART and LAUREN KING, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — This is Day 35 of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Here is how the hearing is unfolding. All times Eastern:
Feb 23, 1:39 pm
Becerra’s 1st hearing finishes with little drama
The first hearing for Biden’s pick to head the Department of Health and Human services, Xavier Becerra, ended Tuesday afternoon with little drama or contentious back-and-forths with Republicans despite their clear opposition to him on policy issues like abortion and health care.
Democratic senators highlighted Becerra’s potential to make history as the first Latino to lead the department and his experience leading massive departments and in policy as a congressman for 24 years.
Only a handful of Republicans told Becerra to his face that they didn’t think he had the public health experience for the job, one of the key criticisms ahead of the hearing.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sharply criticized him to reporters as the hearing was ongoing. But McConnell’s remarks were a reminder: Being cordial at a hearing doesn’t mean Republicans are going to vote for Becerra.
Becerra will head to the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday at 2 p.m, which will advance a vote on his confirmation to the Senate floor.
Feb 23, 1:05 pm
White House continues to back Tanden, despite some GOP opposition
The White House continues to back Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick to oversee the Office of Management and Budget, despite criticism from Republicans about her tweets that have been critical of conservatives.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked during a press briefing Tuesday if there were other people in consideration for the position, and she said there is only “one candidate” and that is Tanden.
“She has had 44 meetings now with senators of both parties, she’s spoken with 15 senators from both parties since Friday,” Psaki said. “Some of those were repeats of people she had spoken with previously but, as I noted yesterday, she’s committed to rolling up her sleeves, having those conversations, answering questions as they come up, reiterating her commitment to working with people across the aisle.”
Feb 23, 12:31 pm
Senate confirms Biden’s pick for UN ambassador
The Senate has confirmed Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a retired career ambassador and former top U.S. diplomat for Africa, as ambassador to the United Nations. The final vote was 78-20, with top Republicans, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, voting in favor.
Thomas-Greenfield is the eighth official and the first Black woman confirmed to Biden’s Cabinet. The U.S. will assume the presidency of the U.N. Security Council on Monday for the month of March, and Thomas-Greenfield will now be in place for that term, as the U.S. sets the agenda for the U.N.’s highest body.
Her nomination had been held up by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who accused Thomas-Greenfield of “moving towards and embracing the Chinese Communist Party” because of a speech she gave at a historically Black college in Georgia that was co-hosted by its Confucius Institute, a Chinese government-funded program that promotes the CCP as part of a language and cultural curriculum. However, Thomas-Greenfield said she regrets accepting the invitation and would not do it again, adding she was “appalled” by the Confucius Institute’s treatment of poor Black Georgians.
Feb 23, 12:25 pm
Biden plans trip to Texas on Friday in wake of deadly storms
Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Houston, Texas, on Friday, the White House announced.
The president will visit the state in the aftermath of the catastrophic winter storm that left millions of Texas residents without power and water and killed at least 30 people in the state.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week that the president was considering a trip but was cognizant of the burden and additional resources that a presidential visit can bring.
Biden has already approved a major disaster declaration for the state, opening up federal funds to 77 of the state’s 254 counties.
Feb 23, 11:41 am
Witnesses to testify for Garland
On the second day of Judge Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing, the nominee will not testify but five witnesses will testify virtually about his nomination and credentials. Those witnesses include Wade Henderson, CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Josh Blackman, South College Texas of law professor, Andrea Tucker, a mother in D.C., whose twin children Garland tutors, Ken Starr, former solicitor general and U.S. circuit judge, and Donna Bucella, former director for Executive Office of U.S. attorneys.
Garland emerged virtually unscathed after Monday’s hearing, earning praise from senators on both sides of the aisle as he fielded questions on domestic terrorism, racial justice issues and restoring independence to the Justice Department, among other topics.
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., did express concern over what they described as Garland’s unwillingness to pledge that he will not fire special counsel John Durham without proper cause, a commitment they note former attorney general William Barr made during his confirmation hearing about then-special counsel Robert Mueller.
Garland repeatedly emphasized that because he had no knowledge of Durham’s investigation he wanted to meet with him first before making a decision but said that because Durham hasn’t yet been fired in the new administration he sees no reason to doubt that decision.
Other Republicans, like Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., appeared to grow frustrated over Garland’s unwillingness to engage on questions about his views on immigration policy. Garland said he was not completely aware of Biden’s immigration policy proposals so declined to wade into the issue.
Feb 23, 11:30 am
Biden’s pick for HHS gets praise from Dems, but some are ‘not sold’
The first day of hearings for Biden’s pick for secretary of health and human services, Xavier Becerra, kicked off with glowing praise from Democrats, who heralded his experience, and criticism from Republicans, who think his resume is a detractor.
Both Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., who introduced Becerra, highlighted his potential to make history as the first Latino to lead the department and his experience leading massive departments and in policy as a congressman for 24 years. But Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said he is “not sold” Becerra has the “necessary experience or skills to do this job at this moment.”
Becerra, in his opening statement, said he was committed to working in a bipartisan way.
“No one understands your states and communities better than you. We may not always agree, but if I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed, I will always listen to you and keep an open mind, find common cause, and work with you to improve the health and dignity of the American people,” Becerra said.
Becerra laid out his “vision” for the department with three goals: make COVID-19 treatments more accessible, bring down the cost of health care and restore faith in public institutions by putting science first.
Feb 23, 10:46 am
Biden to thank Black essential workers, meet with Trudeau
On Tuesday afternoon, the president will meet virtually with a group of Black essential workers to thank them for their critical roles during the pandemic.
Then, Biden will participate in his first bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and after give a statement on the meeting.
Feb 23, 10:12 am
Three Biden nominees considered by Senate
Three of Biden’s picks for key administration positions have hearings before Senate committees Tuesday. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to consider Debra Haaland for secretary of the Interior. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee will consider Xavier Becerra to serve as secretary of health and human services.
And the Senate Judiciary Committee will resume its hearing, which began Monday, to consider Merrick Garland for attorney general.
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