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Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and John Cornyn slam Biden cabinet picks, suggesting confirmation fight

Two Republican Senators have blasted President-Elect Joe Biden's cabinet picks, suggesting they might try to block the nomination process after January's inauguration. 

In tweets Sunday, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas hit out at Biden's potential picks for Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Director of the Office of Management and Budget.  

Cornyn tweeted that the Senate is 'not obligated to confirm anyone', as he brought up the financial industry ties of some of the nominees. 

And Cotton wrote: 'Biden said he wanted to unify the country. But he's picked a national security team that is weak on China, a DHS nominee who sold visas for powerful political friends, and a partisan hack who called Susan Collins 'the worst' for OMB.

'So much for unity.' 

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas tweeted Sunday that Joe Biden has put forth 'weak' and 'partisan' nominees that call into question the President-Elect's pledge to 'unify' the country

President-elect Biden's National Security Team

Antony Blinken, Secretary of State

Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security

Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor

John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

Cotton's reference to a DHS nominee 'who sold visas' refers to Alejandro Mayorkas, who was President Barack Obama's Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security during his second term. 

While serving in that role, he used his position to help foreign investors who were connected to top Democrats with the EB-5 visa program, an Inspector General's report found in 2015, reported Fox News.

And his reference to a 'partisan hack' pick refers to Neera Tanden, who was announced Sunday as Biden's pick for OMB director.

She is president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, and is considered a Hillary Clinton loyalist. 

She maintains a combative Twitter presence, punching both right and left and sometimes tagging her opponents' employers. 

Tanden trained her online ire on Sen. Collins of Maine in 2018, calling her 'the worst' after Collins claimed not to understand the significance of Brett Kavanaugh's high school yearbook entries while the justice was undergoing Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court. 

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas (left) reminded Biden that the Senate, which is likely to be controlled by Republicans, is not obligated to confirm his nominees, while Cotton (right) listed potential vulnerabilities of Biden's announced cabinet picks 

Tony Blinken, Biden's pick for Secretary of State, said at a September event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that it was 'unrealistic' for the U.S. to fully decouple from China.  

Blinken was one of the unnamed subjects of a tweet thread by Cornyn, which began when he posted a New York Times story that examined the connections of several Biden nominees to consulting and financial firms.  

Cornyn quoted from a New York Times story on Sunday that explored the ties to the financial and consulting industries of two of Biden's cabinet picks 

Cornyn seemed to demand that Biden's cabinet picks fully disclose all their clients or risk being rejected by the Senate

'Mr. Biden's transition office stopped short of saying that all clients would be disclosed — and ethics rules allow incoming federal officials to withhold the identities of clients if the arrangements are subject to confidentiality agreements,' Cornyn quoted from the article. 

'Maybe, maybe not. But the Senate is not obligated to confirm anyone who hides this information,' Cornyn wrote in a follow-up post. 

Blinken and Michèle A. Flournoy, who's short-listed for Secretary of Defense are both founders of consulting firm WestExec Advisors. They've both advised Pine Island Capital.

Ethics watchdogs warn that officials can craft U.S. policy to benefit former clients, and this becomes easier and more pernicious if those clients are not known to the public.

Alejandro Mayorkas (left) used his position to help foreign investors who were connected to top Democrats with the EB-5 visa program, an Inspector General's report found in 2015. Neera Tanden (right), Biden's nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget, in a 2018 tweet called Sen. Susan Collins of Maine 'the worst'

Barring a Democratic sweep of Georgia's two runoff elections for the Senate in January, Biden's party will be a minority in the upper chamber, meaning at least some Republican buy-in will be necessary to confirm any of the incoming president's cabinet picks.

Republican senators have often voted in lockstep under Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. 

That suggests that a slim 52-48 or 51-49 Republican majority may be impenetrable for Biden if he attempts to get even mainstream Democrats through the Senate confirmation process. 

Republicans could demand a certain number of GOP nominees to head cabinet departments. They could also wield veto power over Democratic choices they deem too partisan.  

Tony Blinken, Biden's pick for Secretary of State, and Michèle A. Flournoy, who's short-listed for Secretary of Defense, are both founders of consulting firm WestExec Advisors. A Biden spokesperson would not pledge that all their clients would be disclosed

Of course, President Trump has been able to run the federal government without getting Senate confirmation for an unprecedented number of Senate-confirmable positions.

Thirty-nine key positions across the 15 cabinet departments were never filled by Trump near the end of his term, according to a Brookings Institution report.

Instead, Trump designated 'acting' officials to fill those roles.    

President-Elect Joe Biden faces the prospect of a Republican-controlled Senate if Democrats lose one or both of the Senate runoff elections in Georgia in January, which could make it very difficult for him to get his desired cabinet nominees confirmed

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