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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s Cabinet is starting to fill out, with nominees for agriculture secretary and United Nations ambassador gaining Senate approval Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he intends to wrap up the remaining nomination votes quickly.

“At a time of acute national challenge, we need qualified leaders atop our federal agencies — and fast,” he said Tuesday on the Senate floor.

“And that’s what we intend to do.”

Schumer couldn’t resist a jab at former President Donald Trump, saying that all Biden’s nominees are “undoubtedly qualified for their positions, a stark departure from the caliber of nominees the Senate was made to consider during the previous administration.”

But one of Biden’s nominees, Neera Tanden to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget, is clearly in trouble in the evenly divided Senate. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has said he opposes her confirmation.

Here’s what happened Tuesday:

UNITED NATIONS

The Senate voted 78-20 to approve career diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as United Nations Ambassador, a Cabinet-level position. A 35-year foreign service veteran who resigned during the Trump administration, Thomas-Greenfield will have to address multiple international relationships that were altered by Trump’s erratic and isolationist style.

“This confirmation sends a message that the United States is back and that our foreign service is back,” said Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., who chairs a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, global health and global human rights. “We as a country and as a world are safer with Linda Thomas-Greenfield serving as the United States ambassador to the United Nations.”

During confirmation hearings, Thomas-Greenfield faced some criticism from Senate Republicans who labeled her soft on China, citing a 2019 speech she gave to the Chinese-funded Confucius Institute in which she praised China’s massive infrastructure and influence program in Africa.

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She said the speech had been a mistake and was not intended to be an endorsement of Chinese government policies. She said of China, “They are a threat to their neighbors, and they are a threat across the globe.”

___

AGRICULTURE

The Senate voted 92-7 to confirm Tom Vilsack for a return engagement as agriculture secretary.

The former Iowa governor spent eight years leading the same department under former President Barack Obama.

In his testimony, Vilsack, 70, heavily endorsed boosting climate-friendly agricultural industries such as the creation of biofuels, saying, “Agriculture is one of our first and best ways to get some wins in this climate area.”

Vilsack received minimal pushback or criticism during confirmation hearings. One of the few “no” votes came from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Sanders said he would have liked “somebody a little bit more vigorous in terms of protecting family farms and taking on corporate agriculture.”

Vilsack also heavily backed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — commonly known as food stamps, or SNAP — as a key instrument in helping the country’s most vulnerable families survive and recover from the coronavirus pandemic. His Trump-era predecessor, Sonny Perdue, had sought to purge hundreds of thousands of people from the SNAP-recipient lists.

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HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Health and Human Services nominee Xavier Becerra told senators that “strong federal leadership” was needed to confront the coronavirus pandemic. He also pledged to work to expand health insurance coverage, curb prescription drug costs and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in medical care.

Currently California’s attorney general, Becerra appeared Tuesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He has a second confirmation hearing Wednesday before the Finance Committee, which will vote on sending his nomination to the Senate floor.

On Tuesday, he pledged to work to expand the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, though he’s previously supported a government-run system like “Medicare for All.”

Although Democrats have backed Becerra, Republican opposition has grown louder.

“I’m not sold yet,” Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the ranking Republican on the health committee, said, addressing Becerra. “I’m not sure that you have the necessary experience or skills to do this job at this moment.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has called Becerra “famously partisan.” As California attorney general, Becerra filed 124 lawsuits challenged Trump administration actions.

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INTERIOR

Rep. Deb Haaland, Biden’s nominee to lead the Interior Department, fielded sharp questions from Republicans over what some called her “radical” ideas that include opposition to fracking and to the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The New Mexico congresswoman said she was determined to “strike the right balance” between conserving public lands and energy development. If confirmed, Haaland, 60, would be the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency.

Haaland’s hearing centered on her and Biden’s intentions regarding the future of fossil fuels. Her hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was adjourned after nearly 2 1/2 hours and will resume Wednesday.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., displayed a large chart featuring a quote from Haaland last November, before she was selected as Biden’s nominee. She said then: “If I had my way, it’d be great to stop all gas and oil leasing on federal and public lands.”

Manchin, the panel’s chair and a Democrat from coal-dependent West Virginia, has said he is undecided on Haaland’s nomination.

In response to questions from Manchin and others, Haaland said the U.S. will continue to rely on fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas even as it moves toward Biden’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by mid-century. The transition to clean energy “is not going to happen overnight,” she said.

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Associated Press writers Matthew Lee, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.

News Source: newsbrig.com

Tags: biden’s nominees during confirmation hearings biden’s nominee united nations ambassador the coronavirus pandemic linda thomas greenfield agriculture secretary trump administration before the senate the united states attorney general the senate floor former president the senate voted foreign service questions west virginia she said are a threat fossil fuels public lands has said he to lead

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Bidens DHS Releases 1K Remain in Mexico Migrants into U.S. in Two Weeks

President Joe Biden’s administration has released more than 1,000 migrants enrolled in the now-defunct “Remain in Mexico” program into the United States interior over the last two weeks.

After taking office in January, Biden ended the Remain in Mexico policy which had proven remarkably effective in eliminating the Catch and Release program where border crossers are apprehended and subsequently released into the U.S. interior while awaiting their asylum hearings.

To date, of the more than 71,000 asylum cases under Remain in Mexico, less than one percent of foreign nationals were found to have a legitimate asylum claim.

Biden announced in February that his Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with the help of the United Nations, would start releasing about 25,600 migrants enrolled in the program into the U.S. interior. Breitbart News exclusively reported weeks ago that the migrants are being released in Brownsville and El Paso, Texas, as well as San Diego, California.

Data exclusively reviewed by Breitbart News reveals between February 19 and March 4, DHS has released more than 1,000 Remain in Mexico-migrants into the U.S. interior. In the first week of releases, no more than 50 migrants were released every day.

Since February 26, the daily release of migrants in the program has shot up to anywhere between 100 to 150. DHS officials have said all are being tested for coronavirus. On average, DHS is releasing about 72 Remain in Mexico-enrolled migrants into the U.S. every day, in addition to hundreds of border crossers who do not have to undergo coronavirus tests or quarantine requirements.

The data shows that the Remain in Mexico-enrolled migrants are being paroled into the U.S. and thus can apply to receive work permits from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency.

Most of the migrants given parole thus far, 56 percent, are from Honduras and El Salvador. More than 17 percent are from Guatemala and roughly 10 percent are from Nicaragua.

Under Biden’s watch, the Catch and Release program has expanded tremendously. For example, Breitbart News exclusively reported that in the first four days of March, DHS had released at least 814 border crossers into the U.S. — none of which have to take coronavirus tests or quarantine.

Reports last week confirmed that border crossers are testing positive for the coronavirus after their release and still are not required to quarantine. In one case, a Honduran national who tested positive continued traveling to North Carolina.

At the same time, DHS officials are expecting a massive surge of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. More than 3,300 migrant youth were in DHS custody as of March 4, Breitbart News exclusively reported. Most will be released into the U.S. interior at a later date.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter here. 

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