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World

Two more Biden cabinet picks confirmed, but one in peril

  • Also under fire was Xavier Becerra, California's attorney general whom Biden tapped for health secretary.
Updated 24 Feb 2021

WASHINGTON: The US Senate on Tuesday easily confirmed two more of Joe Biden's cabinet nominees as the president fills out his inner circle, although another pick was facing mounting opposition.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a former career diplomat, earned confirmation to be US ambassador to the United Nations, on a 78-20 vote.

The 68-year-old African-American woman has pledged to fight China's global influence, saying in her confirmation hearing last month that Beijing's "authoritarian agenda" runs counter to UN values.

The Senate then comfortably greenlighted Tom Vilsack, 70, to be secretary of agriculture, a post he held throughout Barack Obama's administration.

While Biden's key nominees like secretary of state, treasury and defence have been confirmed, his cabinet remains less than half full.

Some picks face resistance, notably Neera Tanden, whose nomination to be White House budget director is imperiled in the evenly divided Senate.

With multiple Republican moderates and at least one Democrat, centrist Senator Joe Manchin, opposing her confirmation, the chances of securing sufficient support have dimmed for Tanden.

But Biden was for now sticking by Tanden, whose past social media posts have targeted conservatives and progressives alike.

"We're going to push. We still think there's a shot," Biden told reporters Tuesday about Tanden, a 50-year-old daughter of Indian immigrants.

Another minority woman, rising progressive star Deb Haaland, would become the first Native American to serve in a presidential cabinet if she is confirmed as interior secretary.

Haaland, 60, endured tough questioning from Republicans in her confirmation hearing Tuesday, and Manchin has reportedly said he remained undecided about her.

Also under fire was Xavier Becerra, California's attorney general whom Biden tapped for health secretary.

"We will study Mr Becerra's testimony today but I find it hard to see how such a radical and underqualified candidate could take such a crucial position at such a critical time" during the coronavirus pandemic, top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said.

With the Senate split 50-50, Democrats would need Vice President Kamala Harris's vote in the event of a tie.