Xavier Becerra and Bill Burns

It's about bloody time! Yesterday the Senate finally confirmed California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as secretary of Health and Human Services and Ambassador Bill Burns to head the CIA. No hurry, Gippers, nothing going on in the world lately.

Becerra, a former congressman representing Los Angeles, faced massive opposition from Republicans who deemed him unqualified for the job. Yes, the same Republicans who recently confirmed John Ratcliffe as Director of National Intelligence — a position that by law requires actual intelligence experience — were very seriously concerned that Becerra's experience in Congress and as California's top lawyer does not equip him to head the federal bureaucracy charged with ensuring equitable access to healthcare for all Americans.


Thanks, Senator Bill Cassidy, for reminding us that your vote to impeach was a one-off and you're still a shitheel. Four years ago, Donald Trump's Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar was confirmed by unanimous consent, despite having no "health care background" besides working for drugmaker Eli Lilly. This time around, the only Republican to support the nominee was Sen. Susan Collins, who maintains her reputation as a "moderate" by being right about something once a month. (Don't worry, she's back to form today, announcing her opposition to Colin Kahl's nomination for undersecretary of Defense because of — you guessed it! — his prior mean tweets.)

Republicans loathe Becerra for his constant litigation against the Trump administration, which he sued more than 70 times in his role as California's AG. He sued to keep the citizenship question off the Census. He sued to stop that hack Louis DeJoy from ratfucking the post office. He sued to block Trump's Fuck You, Mexico wall. And he sued HHS to ensure that the federal government didn't block access to contraception in employer-sponsored health insurance plans, which South Dakota Senator John Thune characterized as suing nuns during Becerra's confirmation hearing.

Anyway! With the necessary bad faith theatrics out of the way, this son of Mexican immigrants who grew up in a one-room apartment with his three siblings and graduated from Stanford Law School will be sworn in shortly as the first Latino secretary of HHS.

Republicans were feeling extra generous yesterday (lol, we are silly on Fridays), so they let Bill Burns's CIA nomination go through, too. And by "they," we mean Senator Ted Cruz, who had put a hold on Burns and Brian McKeon, President Biden's nominee for deputy secretary of State for management and resources. (Senate holds are explained on page 10 here; they're not actually mentioned in the rules of the Senate, and they're reliant on the ability of a senator to filibuster, and the difficulty to end that filibuster when you need 60 votes to do so.)

Now that there's a Democrat in the White House, Cruz has suddenly remembered that he cares deeply about those sanctions on Russia that Congress passed in 2019. He wants to make damn sure that the Biden administration puts a stop to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would allow Russia to bypass Ukraine and bring natural gas straight into Germany. As Politico notes, however, this is going to seriously piss off our German allies, not to mention several multinational conglomerates, who have already sunk billions of dollars into the project.

Let's just say that the move is not without political cost — and Ted Cruz is very hot to be seen as the one cracking the whip to make the Biden administration pay it. Which is theoretically why he's been blocking the CIA director and deputy State nominations for weeks now. (Eye roll.) Because nothing makes America safer and stronger than leaving its intelligence agencies rudderless, right?

But yesterday Secretary of State Anthony Blinken sent a very strong signal that companies who spend more money to build that pipeline will live to regret it, and Cruz released the hold.

Director Burns, who has been kicking around DC since the earth cooled, despite being only 65 years old, was confirmed by unanimous consent. McKeon, who held multiple positions in the State Department in the Obama administration and worked for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was confirmed on a voice vote. Because there was literally nothing wrong with these nominees, and holding them up was just a political stunt by an asshole who labors under the delusion that he'll be president one day.

And that asshole is still blocking the nomination of Ambassador Wendy Sherman for deputy secretary of State "until the full sanctions mandated by Congress are in fact broadly imposed against the ships and companies critical to completing the pipeline." In part because Republicans hate her for her role in negotiating the Iran nuclear deal under Obama, and in part because he's just an inveterate jerk who can't help himself.

So, it's a good day. Well, more or less.

[Politico]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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