GOP senators suddenly don't care if anyone's in charge of national security


Republicans were adamant in 2017 that Trump's national security team be ready to go on 'day one.' For Biden? Not so much.

President-elect Joe Biden's national security team will not be fully assembled by the time he's officially sworn in on Wednesday, with confirmation hearings for his nominees only beginning on Tuesday.

The contrast is stark, given the previous push by Republicans, who currently control the Senate, to ensure Donald Trump's national security team was ready to go on "day one."

According to a report from the anti-corruption watchdog group Accountable.US, numerous Republicans who are current members of the Senate pressed hard for Trump's nominees to be confirmed quickly back in 2017, yet have been relatively silent as Biden prepares to take office with a pending Cabinet and national security team.

As the New York Times noted back then, the Senate confirmed Trump's secretary nominees for Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, James Mattis and John Kelly respectively, hours after Trump was sworn into the presidency.

Hearings for Biden's Defense secretary nominee Lloyd Austin and Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas, on the other hand, began on Tuesday this week.

Four days before Trump's 2017 inauguration, GOP Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), the second-highest-ranking Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Trump should be able to "hit the ground running on Day One."

"When Donald Trump assumes the presidency on January 20, he will inherit a wide variety of challenges at home and abroad. ... I am hopeful that the Senate can avoid needless procedural delays that would deny President-elect Trump the ability to hit the ground running on Day One, particularly with his national security team," Wicker said.

Ten days before Trump's inauguration, the GOP-controlled Senate held a confirmation hearing for Kelly. During the event, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (WI), former chairman of that committee, emphasized the importance of "any President" having a national security team ready to go upon taking office.

"I think it is incumbent on the U.S. Senate to recognize how important it is for any President to be able to set up and establish their national security team from day one," Johnson said.

GOP senators also signaled an urgency to confirm Trump's CIA director nominee at the time, Mike Pompeo who would later become Trump's secretary of state.

The Senate Intelligence Committee ultimately confirmed Pompeo four days after Trump's inauguration. During that process, Democrats, including Sen. Ron Wyden (OR), objected, resulting in a delay that prompted Republican outcry.

On Jan. 20, 2017, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Trump needed his team on "day one."

"Leader McConnell has made it very clear President Trump should have his national security team in place on day one," David Popp, a spokesman for McConnell, told McClatchy DC then.

At the time, GOP Sen. Tom Cotton (AR) said the delay in Pompeo's confirmation exposed America to foreign threats.

"Hundreds of thousands of Americans are in Washington this weekend at a designated special national-security event, yet the Democrats are obstructing the nomination of Mike Pompeo as CIA Director for no good reason. For Senator Wyden's sake, I hope the jihadists take the weekend off from trying to kill Americans," he said in a statement.

Republicans do not appear to have the same sense of urgency for Biden's CIA pick. The president-elect formally nominated William Burns on Jan. 11; as of yet, he does not have a scheduled confirmation hearing.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.