DC is Armed Camp as Biden Takes Office; Senate Begins Cabinet Confirmations

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President-elect Joe Biden stands with his wife Jill Biden after speaking at the Major Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III National Guard/Reserve Center, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in New Castle, Del. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Edited by: TJVNews.com

As of this writing on Tuesday afternoon, President-elect Joe Biden is making a sober entrance to the nation’s capital; ready to assume power as America reels from the coronavirus pandemic, soaring unemployment and grave concerns about more violence as he prepares to take the oath of office.

Biden, an avid fan of Amtrak, had planned to take a train into Washington ahead of Wednesday’s Inauguration Day, but scratched that plan in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

He instead flew into a military airbase just outside the capital on Tuesday afternoon and was set to motorcade into fortress D.C. — a city that’s been flooded by some 25,000 National Guard troops guarding a Capitol, White House and National Mall that are wrapped in a maze of barricades and tall fencing.

Flags are placed on the National Mall ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Shortly before Biden departed for Washington, the U.S. reached another grim milestone in the pandemic, surpassing 400,000 deaths from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“These are dark times,” Biden told dozens of supporters in an emotional sendoff in Delaware before departing for Washington. “But there’s always light.”

Biden, who ran for the presidency as a cool head who could get things done, plans to issue a series of executive orders on Day One — including reversing President Donald Trump’s effort to leave the Paris climate accord, canceling his travel ban on visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries, and extending pandemic-era limits on evictions and student loan payments.

Trump won’t attend Biden’s inauguration, the first outgoing president to skip the ceremony since Andrew Johnson more than a century and a half ago. Trump remained out of sight in the White House on Tuesday with a bare announced schedule.

President Trump recorded a farewell message saying it was the honor of lifetime to have served the American people.

Trump recorded a farewell message saying it was the honor of lifetime to have served the American people as president. He also listed his accomplishments while in office and said, “As I conclude my term as the 45th President of the United States, I stand before you truly proud of what we have achieved together. We did what we came here to do — and so much more. This week, we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous. We extend our best wishes, and we also want them to have luck — a very important word.”

Biden at his Delaware farewell, held at the National Guard/Reserve Center named after his late son Beau Biden, paid tribute to his home state. After his remarks, he stopped and chatted with friends and well-wishers in the crowd, much like an Iowa rope line at the start of his long campaign journey.

“I’ll always be a proud son of the state of Delaware,” said Biden, who struggled to hold back tears as he delivered brief remarks.

Aides say that Biden’s first event in Washington, along with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, will be to take part in an evening ceremony at the Reflecting Pool near the Lincoln Memorial to honor the 400,000 American lives lost to COVID-19.

Inaugural organizers on Monday finished installing some 200,000 small U.S., state and territorial flags on the National Mall, a display to represent the American people who couldn’t come to the inauguration, which is restricted under the tight security and Covid restrictions.

A worker installs flags on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/David Phillip)

It’s also a reminder of all the president-elect faces as he looks to steer the nation through the pandemic with infections and deaths soaring.

Ahead of Biden’s arrival, 12 U.S. Army National Guard members were removed from the presidential inauguration security mission after they were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or posted extremist views online, according to two U.S. officials. There was no threat to President-elect Joe Biden, they said.

Biden has assembled his inner circle of advisers and Cabinet officials ahead of Inauguration Day.

Now, he’s waiting on Congress to confirm his nominees — particularly those involved in key national security and economic positions, according to an NPR report.

NPR reported that the Senate scheduled hearings for five key officials on Tuesday, retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin for defense secretary, Janet Yellen for the Treasury, Alejandro Mayorkas for Homeland Security, Antony Blinken for the State Department and Avril Haines as director of national intelligence.

Full list of positions unveiled include:

– Elizabeth Klein, Deputy Secretary of the Interior

– Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture

– Andrea Palm, Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services

– Polly Trottenberg, Deputy Secretary of Transportation

– Cindy Marten, Deputy Secretary of Education

– Rohit Chopra, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

– Gary Gensler, Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

Biden nominated Judge Merrick Garland to serve as the nation’s next attorney general on Jan. 7, according to an ABC7 news report.

Garland, 68, serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He had been nominated to the Supreme Court in 2016 by President Barack Obama to fill the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia, but was never given a confirmation hearing by Senate Republicans who held the vacancy open for President Donald Trump to fill.

Biden announced Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as his nominee for labor secretary on Jan. 7.

Walsh, 53, has served as the Democratic mayor of Boston since 2014. The pro-union politician had previously served as head of the Boston Trades Council. Biden spoke at Walsh’s 2017 mayoral inauguration and they share Irish-American backgrounds.

Biden said he seriously considered Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the role but that both decided it was more important for their advancement of a shared political agenda to keep Sanders in the Senate.

Biden announced he’d nominate Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to commerce secretary on Jan. 7

Raimondo, who was first elected governor in 2014 and chaired the Democratic Governors Association in 2019, was one of the women under consideration to be Biden’s running mate and was a potential choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.

Biden announced Miguel Cardona as his nominee to head the Department of Education on Dec. 22.

Cardona currently serves as Connecticut’s commissioner of education — the first Latino to hold the position. A former public school teacher and student, he is a strong advocate for public education.

Biden announced Michael Regan as his nominee to head the EPA on Dec. 19.

Regan is no stranger to the agency, having previously served nearly a decade there under both Democratic and Republican presidents. He would be the first African American man to run the EPA if confirmed. Regan is currently secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

Biden nominated New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland to lead the Department of the Interior.

If confirmed, she would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary.

At an event on Dec. 19 announcing his latest nominees, Biden noted the significance of having Haaland fill “a critical role.”

“As the first Native American Cabinet secretary in the history of the United States of America, she’ll be a true steward of our national parks, our natural resources and all of our lands,” he said. “The federal government has long broken promises to Native American tribes who have been on this land since time immemorial. With her appointment, Congresswoman Haaland will help me strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship.”

The president-elect announced on Dec. 15 he would nominate Pete Buttigieg to steer the Department of Transportation.

At 38, Buttigieg is the youngest of Biden’s Cabinet picks so far. He is also poised to become the first openly gay person confirmed by the Senate to a Cabinet post. Buttigieg is the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He ran against Biden in the Democratic primary and is seen as a rising star in the party. As transportation secretary, Buttigieg would likely play a key part in implementing Biden’s ambitious infrastructure plan, which aims to offset the impacts of climate change.

Former New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has been named Deputy Secretary of Transportation in the Biden Administration. She will be incoming Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s number two. A few months ago, Trottenberg had been chosen for President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team.

In addition to those names Biden also named Rohit Chopra, a Commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission and an ally to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, as his pick to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Gary Gensler, a former Obama administration official and top staffer on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, is Biden’s pick to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Biden named former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as his selection to head the Department of Energy on Dec. 17.

Granholm led the Wolverine State during the Great Recession, working with the Obama administration to rescue the U.S. auto industry while promoting investments in green energy.

Biden announced on Dec. 8 he will nominate retired four-star Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to lead the Department of Defense. Austin previously headed the military’s Central Command, where he was in charge of all American troops in the Middle East.

Biden, on Dec. 10, announced he will nominate former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack to serve as his secretary of agriculture. Vilsack led the department for eight years during the Obama administration after he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2009.

Biden announced on Dec. 10 he will nominate Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge to serve as his secretary of housing and urban development. Fudge is a member of the House Agriculture Committee and Committee on Education and Labor. She is a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and was recently elected to a seventh term in Congress, representing the Cleveland area.

Denis McDonough, who served as former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff in his second term, will be nominated, Biden said on Dec. 10, to serve as his secretary of veterans affairs.

On Nov. 23, Biden tapped Antony Blinken as his choice for secretary of state. Blinken has advised the president-elect on foreign policy for almost two decades. Previously, he served as deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration. As the country’s top diplomat, Blinken would be expected to play a pivotal part in the Biden administration’s efforts to rebuild alliances and reenter international agreements like the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate Accord, as well as halt the country’s exit from the World Health Organization.

Biden said he would name former Secretary of State John Kerry as his special presidential envoy for climate on Nov. 23. The newly created role marks the first time the National Security Council will include an official dedicated to climate change.

Biden announced he would nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Nov. 23. Thomas-Greenfield was assistant secretary of state for Africa during the Obama administration. She has served in the Foreign Service for more than three decades. If confirmed, she would be only the second black woman to ever hold the post.

The National Board, membership and professional staff of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. (HWZOA) issued a statement to the media on Tuesday congratulating Linda Thomas-Greenfield on being Biden’s choice for United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

“Ms. Thomas-Greenfield’s nomination signals America’s return to diplomacy that seeks to build bridges and mutual understanding and is an unambiguous statement of President-elect Biden’s determination to reengage with the community of nations and reestablish America’s position as a world leader. The restoration of United Nations Ambassador to a cabinet-level position makes clear to allies and non-allies alike that America has a moral obligation to call out undemocratic behavior wherever it is found around the globe, “ the statement said. Hadassah added that, “The accomplishments and vast experience that Ms. Thomas-Greenfield will bring to the job give us hope that the United States can recapture the world’s belief in the American experiment as it was imagined by our nation’s founders almost 250 years ago.”

As part of a rollout of major foreign policy and national security appointments and nominees, the president-elect announced he would nominate Alejandro Mayorkas for secretary of homeland security on Nov. 23.

Mayorkas was born in Havana and came to the United States as a refugee. If the Senate votes to confirm him to the position, he would be the first Latino and the first immigrant to lead the agency in charge of implementing the nation’s immigration policies and border laws.

Mayorkas is a veteran of the department; he directed its legal immigration agency and previously served as the deputy secretary of homeland security. He is also one of the architects behind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).

Also on Tuesday, the American Jewish Congress expressed their support for the swift confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas to be the country’s next Secretary of Homeland Security in a statement issued to the media. They said that, “ Secretary-designate Mayorkas is supremely qualified for the position, having served as Deputy Secretary in the Obama Administration, and is ready to advance the mission of the department on day one.”

The AJC added that, “As you know, the American Jewish community is deeply concerned about the current situation in the country, from the continuing pandemic to political paralysis to rising Antisemitism. There is a great need for strong security support for the Jewish community at both our physical institutions and in the public realm. This moment calls for effective leadership and we believe that, due to his record of success and commitment to the Jewish community, Secretary-designate Mayorkas can deliver results.”

(AP, NPR)

Additional reporting by Fern Sidman