Senate confirms Biden’s first Cabinet nominee. The Senate voted to confirm Avril Haines to be Director of National Intelligence on Wednesday evening, making her the first of President Biden’s Cabinet nominees to be confirmed. Haines was approved by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 84 to 10.
The Senate adjourned for the night after confirming Haines, and will reconvene at 12 p.m. on Thursday.
“Avril Haines was the right choice for Director of National Intelligence. We appreciate the bipartisan cooperation to get her confirmed tonight, and we hope there will be a lot more of it because the nation is in crisis and we need President Biden’s team in place as quickly as possible,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a speech on the Senate floor ahead of the vote that it was “appropriate” that Haines would be the first nominee confirmed by the Senate.
“I believe she is firmly committed to rebuilding the office of the Director of National Intelligence,” Warner said, an implicit rebuke of the office under former President Trump. He said morale within the intelligence community had been damaged as officials had “seen many of their leaders fired for simply doing the right thing: speaking truth to power.”
Republican Senator Tom Cotton had previously objected to holding the vote on Haines’ nomination quickly, but announced in a speech on the Senate floor that he was lifting his objection.
“I was the last person to object to holding that vote. I no longer object,” Cotton said. He had initially objected to the vote because he was unclear on whether Haines wanted to reopen investigations into detention and interrogation programs from the early 2000s.
“She clarified in the private setting that we had that she had no intention to open up those investigations and expose operations officers inside the CIA to criminal prosecution or adverse employment action, or even holding it against them and potential future promotions or placements,” Cotton said.
Senate committees began Tuesday to hold confirmation hearings for five of Mr. Biden’s picks just before his inauguration: Janet Yellen, nominee for Treasury secretary, Haines, nominee for director of national intelligence, Lloyd Austin, nominee for Defense secretary, Tony Blinken, nominee for secretary of state, and Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee for Homeland Security secretary. There is a hearing for Pete Buttigieg, nominee for Transportation secretary, scheduled for Thursday. Denis McDonough, the nominee for secretary of Veterans Affairs, will receive a hearing next week.
Federal agencies will be led by acting officials until all of Mr. Biden’s nominees are confirmed. Until then, the Senate only confirmed Biden’s first Cabinet nominee.