Welcome to POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook, your guide to the people and power centers in the Biden administration. With Allie Bice.
While the logjam of Biden administration nominees is slowly loosening, Democrats say that it’s not happening equitably.
Progressive activists and party officials are accusing Republicans of disproportionately delaying women and nominees of color in their quest for confirmation to the executive branch.
“There are some very slow nominations. We compare
ALVARO BEDOYA to
JONATHAN KANTER as the most recent anti-monopoly nominees, and Kanter moved through expeditiously with bipartisan support and Bedoya is going to be a slog, and it’s going to require discharge,” said
JEFF HAUSER , executive director of the Revolving Door Project. Bedoya is a Federal Trade Commission nominee and Kanter was confirmed last month as assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.
Hauser also cited
KRISTIN JOHNSON at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission,
SHALANDA YOUNG at the office of management and budget and
GIGI SOHN , who is LGBTQ, at the Federal Communications Commission, as diverse nominees who have been stalled in the Senate.
“Some of these things are not just about the specific people, but it does seem clear that…the white men tend to do better or the white candidate when it’s white versus non-white or the straight versus non straight,” Hauser said.
Nominations data through Dec. 9 compiled by the White House tells a similar tale. White nominees moved through the confirmation process more quickly than non-white nominees. Among those confirmed, it took an average of 95 days for white nominees to go from nomination to confirmation, compared to 101 days for non-white nominees. The data also found white nominees are more likely to be confirmed via voice votes than nominees of color.
We dug into the data on Department of Defense nominations, via the Partnership for Public Service’s Biden Nominations Tracker, and also found nominees of color waited longer than white nominees to be approved by the Senate. Of the 25 people confirmed for Pentagon roles as of Dec. 16,the eight people of color waited roughly 97 days to get through, on average, while 17 white candidates waited an average of approximately 86 days.
The nominee delayed the longest,
MICHAEL CONNOR , waited more than six months after his nomination to lead the U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers was announced on April 27. Connor is a tribal member of the Taos Pueblo.
At the Commerce Department, the statistics from the Partnership for Public Service were even starker. Of the nine positions confirmed at the Cabinet agency, the five nominees of color waited an average of roughly 135 days before the Senate confirmed them, while the four white nominees waited an average of about 83 days.
All told, Biden has only been able to confirm 38 percent of his nominations as of Dec. 9. At that point in their presidencies, former President
DONALD TRUMP was able to confirm 50 percent of his nominees, and former president
BARACK OBAMA was able to confirm 68 percent. Unlike his two predecessors, Biden has no margin for error in the Senate.
There are also a couple of committees with extremely low rates of nominees confirmed — under 40 percent — including in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, according to White House data.
Biden’s ambassador and other foreign affairs picks have been slow-walked by Sens.
TED CRUZ (R-Texas) and
JOSH HAWLEY (R-Mo.) — both potential 2024 presidential candidates — over their criticisms of Biden’s foreign policy.
Cruz has halted State Department nominees since February in protest of Biden’s decision to waive sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Europe. Hawley has blocked certain State Department and Pentagon nominees since September over the Biden administration’s management of the Afghanistan troop withdrawal.
We asked Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen.
BOB MENENDEZ, ( D-N.J.)
, if there is concern or chatter within the committee that diverse candidates are having a tougher time getting through the Senate. He didn’t downplay it.
“What adds insult to injury about these delays, is the willingness of Senate Republicans to treat so many imminently qualified diverse nominees as political pawns in order to score cheap points against President Biden,” Menendez said in a statement. “What they don’t seem to understand is opportunities like these do not come along very often for minorities, especially for women of color, and every single one of these individuals has more than earned their right to help in the development and implementation of U.S. foreign policy.”
Of the 36 State Department nominees who have been confirmed by the Senate, 24 are white and 12 are people of color. Both sets of nominees have had to wait long stretches to receive votes on the Senate floor, but nominees of color waited slightly longer, on average: approximately 139 days compared to 130 days for white nominees.
A Republican spokesperson for the committee called the narrative that diverse nominees are being held up longer than white nominees “absurd,” noting all nominations have on average moved faster through the committee this Congress — 71 days — than the last — 94 days.
“In some cases, these nominees have publicly and personally attacked members of the committee, others have very real policy issues in their personal and professional backgrounds,” the spokesperson said. “The premise of the argument ignores a number of high profile women who have been in their roles for months now, and it is an insult to the Senate as an institution to say that Senators should only care about gender, religion or race.”
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Which president earned the nickname "Young Hickory”?
(Answer at the bottom.)
Every Friday, we’ll feature a cartoon of the week — this one is courtesy of
MICHAEL RAMIREZ. Our very own
MATT WUERKER also publishes a selection of cartoons from all over the country.
DOUG THE DUDE —
DOUG THE DUDE —With many fantasy football leagues entering the playoffs this weekend, we thought we’d check in on the man who is perhaps the world’s most powerful fantasy football player, second gentleman
DOUG EMHOFF .
Emhoff, a New York Giants fan, has been in a fantasy football league with friends since 1989, when scores were often tabulated by hand and not fancy apps. Over the past several years, he has shared the team with his son
COLE . Their team name: “Nirvana.”
Unfortunately for Emhoff, he’s doing about as well as the Giants this year, having gone 4-10 and finishing in last place (the Giants are 4-9).
“He doesn’t want to make excuses, but in this case he will – their team was decimated by injuries,” his office said. It’s true. The Emhoffs’ first pick, Carolina Panthers running back
CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , has been on the injured reserve list twice and then tested positive for Covid-19 this week. Brutal.
“Amidst all the changes over the past year, Emhoff was very happy to continue this tradition with his son Cole,” his office said.
Want more Emhoff sports content? Hear him talk about his fantasy football tradition and vaccine awareness campaign on the Rich Eisen Show, recorded back in October.
MUSICAL CHAIRS: The White House Correspondents' Association released a new briefing room seating chart on Friday, marking the first major reshuffle in nearly five years. In an email to members, the WHCA said the key goals of the reorganization were to respect "long-standing service on the beat," ensure the seats are filled, and have a briefing room that "reflects the country it covers."
While the first two rows remained unchanged, Spanish-language and Latino-focused media outlets notably secured seats closer to the lectern. Univision moved up, as did Telemundo (which will share a seat with several of its NBCUniversal corporate cousins). The Washington Blade will also have a seat in the room, reflecting what the WHCA said was a desire to ensure that the briefing room reserves space for outlets that aim to reach LGBTQ audiences.
The other major shift appeared to be ideological. Several right-leaning outlets and tabloids scooped up more real-estate: The New York Post moved up a row to a seat that it will split with The Grio (which, according to its website, is the largest Black newsroom in America), while the Daily Mail moved up several rows and the Daily Caller secured a permanent seat in the back of the room. Fox Business also will now have a rotating seat.
BREAKING THROUGH THE BLOCKADE —
BREAKING THROUGH THE BLOCKADE —
The Senate voted 48-31 to confirm
ATUL GAWANDE to be the USAID assistant administrator. Gawande is one of America’s best known public health researchers and writers. He has been a staff writer at the New Yorker for years.
But his nomination had been held up by Sen.
MARCO RUBIO (R-Fla.) because of his past comments (a 1998 Slate oped, to be precise) on abortion.
On Thursday night, the Senate approved three other foreign policy nominees. By a vote of 75 to 18, lawmakers confirmed
NICHOLAS BURNS to serve as the U.S. ambassador to China, filling a more than yearlong vacancy in the critical post. Lawmakers also voted 76 to 13 to confirm
RAMIN TOLOUI to be the assistant Secretary of State of economic and business affairs, and voted 85 to 5 to confirm
RASHAD HUSSAIN to be the ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom.
Democrats are still negotiating with Republican Sens. Cruz and Hawley to allow votes on more than 50 other foreign policy nominees, including dozens of would-be ambassadors.
RYAN LIZZA interviewed longtime Biden economics adviser
JARED BERNSTEIN for this week’s episode of Playbook Deep Dive. Listen here.
Biden administration considers sending Ukraine military equipment once bound for Afghanistan (Wall Street Journal’s Vivian Salama, Michael R. Gordon and Gordon Lubold)
CDC endorses schools’ coronavirus ‘test-to-stay’ policies (AP’s Mike Stobbe)
Why there are so many vacancies in the Biden administration (Washington Post’s JM Rieger)
JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) and outgoing NIH director
FRANCIS COLLINS on Fox News Sunday at 9 a.m. ET Sunday with guest host
He traveled to West Columbia, S.C. to speak at South Carolina State University’s fall commencement ceremony.
From there, he headed to Wilmington, Del. for the weekend.
No public events scheduled.
Harris's director of speechwriting,
KATE CHILDS GRAHAM , is a proud Catholic — she even has a Monopoly-like board game in which you can compete to be the next pope.
Her mom gifted it to her, she told the Washington Post. "She knew I was such a Catholic nerd,” she joked.
BENEDICT XVI resigned back in 2013, she busted it out to play with a group of friends.
We usually add a joke here, but we’re not about to test our luck with ecumenical powers.
JAMES K. POLK , for his fealty to
ANDREW JACKSON , aka “Old Hickory.” Their political alliance would ultimately prove fruitful for Polk, who would rise to become speaker of the House and governor of Tennessee before ascending to the presidency.
Join the Miller Center and presidential experts live online, on Jan. 13 to discuss President Biden’s first year. Register here
Got a better question? Send us your hardest trivia question on the presidents and we may feature it on Wednesdays. We also want your feedback. What should we be covering in this newsletter that we’re not? What are we getting wrong? Please let us know.
Edited by Emily Cadei