After Senate Republicans were mostly muted during President-elect Joe Biden’s initial rounds of cabinet and administration nominees, some of them are now openly grumbling about Biden’s more recent picks. It’s raised questions about how, or if, Biden can get his picks approved.
First, if the Democrats win the Senate runoffs in Georgia, they’ll have control of the Senate, and it’ll be a moot issue. But if the Democrats lose the runoffs, Mitch McConnell will remain as Senate Majority Leader, and he’ll have control over which Biden nominees get confirmed – except he won’t.
As with all things, this comes down to math. Even if the Republicans win the runoffs, they’ll have a 52-48 majority, with the Democrats holding the VP tiebreaker. This means that if just two Republican Senators decide to vote in favor of any given Biden nominee, that nominee will be confirmed.
In other words, each nomination will come down to the likes of Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski. They can not be trusted to do the right thing. But they can be trusted to do whatever they selfishly think is best for their own careers, whether it’s what McConnell wants or not. These three usually play to the middle, so they likely won’t want to be seen as obstructionists, which means they’ll probably end up voting in favor of most of Biden’s nominees. Perhaps they’ll make a point of rejecting one or two particularly liberal or combative Biden nominees, just to play both sides. But they’ll be calling the shots, not McConnell. McConnell may be threatening to automatically shoot all of Biden’s nominees, but he simply doesn’t have that power.
All that said, we definitely don’t want President Biden having to select his nominees based on whether he thinks people like Romney and Murkowski will confirm them. And while Biden can appoint his nominees on an Acting basis to avoid confirmation hearings, that opens up other issues and potential legal challenges. So let’s make sure we win the Senate runoffs in Georgia, which will mean that Biden can have any nominee that the Senate Democrats agree on.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report