Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday that he will vote to confirm Deb Haaland as interior secretary, citing the New Mexico congresswoman’s “bipartisan accomplishments and sincere willingness to work collaboratively on important issues.”

The announcement gives a boost to one of President Biden’s Cabinet nominees as they continue to face scrutiny at their confirmation hearings in the closely-divided Senate. Votes in two committees on the imperiled nomination of Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, have been delayed; the White House continued to maintain its support for Tanden.

Biden met at the White House with a bipartisan group of lawmakers before signing an executive order calling for a 100-day government review of potential vulnerabilities in U.S. supply chains for critical items, including computer chips, medical gear and electric-vehicle batteries.

Here’s what to know:
12:43 a.m.
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Chief of Staff Ron Klain says if Neera Tanden isn’t confirmed, White House will find her another role

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain remained bullish on Tanden’s confirmation chances, saying that the Biden team was “fighting our guts out to get her confirmed” as OMB director, but that if she couldn’t get the votes, they’d find another role for her in the administration.

“If Neera Tanden is not confirmed, she will not become the budget director,” Klain said, batting down the idea of making her an acting director, during an interview on MSNBC. “We will find some other place for her to serve in the administration that doesn’t require Senate confirmation. But let me be clear: We’re going to get Neera Tanden confirmed. That’s what we’re working for. And she will prove her critics wrong as an outstanding budget director that works with people on both sides of the aisle.”

Klain, who is Tanden’s biggest advocate at the White House, acknowledged there had been “some hot tweets” but argued that her policy experience mattered more.

“I think her career of service, her work on public policy, her progress — particularly in really advancing the cause of health-care coverage in America, which is so bound up in the budget business,” Klain said. “I think she will be a superb OMB director.”

10:54 p.m.
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GOP’s Cassidy, who backed non-physician Azar to head HHS, says Becerra’s lack of medical background makes him unqualified

Sen. Bill Cassidy said Wednesday that President Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, will probably be confirmed. But he argued that Becerra, a lawyer who serves as California attorney general, is not qualified for the role.

“I’m a physician,” Cassidy (R-La.) said during the Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing. “Should I be the attorney general of the United States? Obviously, the answer is no.”

Cassidy previously voted to confirm President Donald Trump’s HHS pick, Alex Azar, also a lawyer rather than a physician. Just three of the agency’s secretaries have been physicians since its 1953 creation.

Several Democratic members of the committee rejected Cassidy’s criticism. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) noted that the previous secretary was also a lawyer, adding, “The only thing is that he was a lawyer at a drug company that ultimately did a pretty good job in fleecing insulin patients.”

Cassidy said Wednesday’s hearing was Becerra’s “opportunity to introduce yourself to the American people and say, ‘No, I’ve got it, I’m ready.’” He also noted, “If I was a betting man, I’d bet you’ve got the votes to be approved.”

10:35 p.m.
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Biden says he’s disappointed more of his Cabinet picks have not been confirmed, blames lack of ‘rational’ transition

In a brief exchange with reporters before Wednesday’s signing ceremony, Biden said he is disappointed that more of his Cabinet nominees have not yet been confirmed.

But instead of pointing the finger at the Senate, Biden faulted his predecessor, Donald Trump, for not allowing the presidential transition to proceed smoothly.

“I blame it on the failure to have a transition that is rational,” Biden said.

For weeks after the November election, Trump sought to subvert Biden’s win by filing legal challenges and promoting false claims of widespread election fraud. His appointed head of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, held off on declaring Biden the apparent winner for more than two weeks.

Biden started off further behind schedule than his six immediate predecessors: None of Biden’s Cabinet secretaries who lead the largest federal departments were confirmed on Inauguration Day, compared with Trump’s two and President Barack Obama’s six secretaries confirmed on Day 1. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was the first to win Senate approval two days later.

Harry Stevens contributed to this report.

9:59 p.m.
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Analysis: An awkward scene epitomizes the GOP’s 3 choices on Trump

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) disagreed Feb. 24 on former president Donald Trump's role in the Republican Party. (The Washington Post)

When members of a party’s congressional leadership hold news conferences, there is a premium on working from the same playbook. That is decidedly not what happened Wednesday with House Republicans.

In a scene that quickly became awkward, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was asked whether former president Donald Trump should speak this weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). McCarthy didn’t miss a beat, responding, “Yes, he should.”

But then the question was posed to the No. 3-ranking Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who had been one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last month.

9:09 p.m.
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Becerra pushes back on criticism over contraceptive coverage

Biden’s pick for health and human services secretary rebutted accusations Wednesday that he sued nuns over the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, pushing back against claims made by conservative groups opposed to his nomination.

Those groups launched an ad blitz targeting Xavier Becerra for his involvement as California attorney general in litigation over religious exemptions to the contraceptive mandate and claimed he sued the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Testifying at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Becerra said he “never sued the nuns” and argued he was defending his state’s rights.

“My actions have always been directed at the federal agencies because they have been trying to do things that are contrary to the law in California,” Becerra said. “It’s my job to defend the rights of my state and uphold the law.”

Little Sisters of the Poor sued the government over the Affordable Care Act’s mandate for employers to provide contraceptive coverage. Although religious groups were given an exemption, the nonprofit still challenged the law. California was one of the states that sued the Trump administration over a 2017 HHS rule expanding exemptions for religious entities that opposed the mandate.

Conservatives repeatedly raised abortion as a concern during the confirmation hearing. Becerra said he understood “that Americans have different, deeply held beliefs on this particular issue, and I absolutely respect that.” He said he would look for “common cause.”

9:08 p.m.
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McConnell joins McCarthy in calling for commission on Jan. 6 attack to be split evenly among both parties

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday called for the independent commission that is expected to study last month’s attack on the U.S. Capitol to be made up of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, echoing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s comments last week on the matter.

The remarks by McConnell (R-Ky.) and McCarthy (R-Calif.) come after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House will move to establish an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection, similar to the body that studied the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“An inquiry with a hard-wired partisan slant would never be legitimate in the eyes of the American people,” McConnell said in a Senate floor speech Wednesday afternoon. “An undertaking that is uneven or unjust would not help our country.”

McConnell pointed to recent remarks made by the 9/11 Commission chairs, former New Jersey governor Thomas H. Kean (R) and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), in interviews with Politico.

Kean said that if the commission does not have equal representation, its report “won’t have as much confidence from the American people,” while Hamilton said Pelosi’s initial proposal of a panel made up of seven Democratic appointees and four GOP appointees “does not sound to me like a good start; it sounds like a partisan beginning.”

A senior House Democratic aide noted that Pelosi’s proposal is a discussion draft that was shared with House GOP leaders last week for edits. In remarks to reporters Wednesday, Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), vice chairman of the House Democratic caucus, responded to Republicans by noting that Pelosi has been “very clear that this was initial outreach.”

“Let’s have a commission that looks like the country, that looks like our Congress, guide the discussion,” he said. “And it’s important that its bicameral and bipartisan.”

In addition to equal representation, McConnell on Wednesday called for the commission to require bipartisan support for subpoenas, as opposed to Pelosi’s draft legislation, which he said “would vest subpoena power in one appointee chosen by Democrats.”

While Democrats have called for the panel to probe the response to the insurrection and what prompted it, in his remarks on the topic last week, McCarthy notably made no mention of investigating the causes of the attack, launched by a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters.

8:50 p.m.
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Manchin will vote to confirm Deb Haaland as interior secretary

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), the first Native American nominated to lead the Interior Department, gave her opening statement at her hearing on Feb. 23. (The Washington Post)

Sen. Joe Manchin III has announced that he will vote to confirm Rep. Deb Haaland as interior secretary, citing her experience working across the aisle and her alignment with President Biden in saying that the United States will continue to use fossil fuels “for years to come.”

“While we do not agree on every issue, she reaffirmed her strong commitment to bipartisanship, addressing the diverse needs of our country and maintaining our nation’s energy independence,” Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in a statement Wednesday.

Manchin said colleagues of Haaland (D-N.M.) from both parties, including Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), had vouched for their productive working relationships with her.

“For all these reasons, I believe Deb Haaland will be a Secretary of the Interior for every American and will vote to confirm her,” Manchin said. “I look forward to working with her to protect our public lands and ensure the responsible use of all our natural resources in a bipartisan manner.”

His statement also alluded to his opposition of another Biden Cabinet picks, Neera Tanden, the nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget. Manchin has said that he will not support Tanden for the job, probably imperiling her confirmation in a 50-50 Senate. The committee vote on Tanden’s nomination has been delayed.

“Given the political divisions currently facing our country, I believe that every Presidential nominee and every Member of Congress must be committed to a new era of bipartisanship,” Manchin said. “That is the standard the overwhelming majority of Americans expect and deserve.”

8:35 p.m.
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Durbin, nine other Senate Democrats press FBI for answers on its handling of threat posed by domestic extremists

Ten Senate Democrats, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin, sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray on Wednesday seeking answers on the bureau’s handling of the threat posed by violent domestic extremists, citing a long list of attacks in recent years, including the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol by a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters.

In the eight-page letter, the Democrats ask Wray to provide a wide range of data on domestic terrorism arrests and investigations from 2016 to the present. They request a breakdown of the number of incidents that have involved right-wing ideologies and those that involved antifa-aligned groups and individuals.

They also ask for information on what steps the FBI is taking to ensure that its employees and contractors do not support domestic terrorism. And they press Wray on the FBI’s recent change to the way it classifies domestic terrorist incidents, a move that Democrats have previously argued plays down the threat of white supremacy.

“Unfortunately, the FBI appears to have taken steps in recent years that minimize the threat of white supremacist and far-right violence, a grave concern that some of us have raised with you on numerous occasions in recent years,” Durbin (D-Ill.) and the nine other Senate Democrats said in the letter, adding, “Additional reporting suggests that the FBI, at the behest of Trump appointees, diverted resources to investigate left-wing movements at the expense of adequately addressing the threat of violence by white supremacists and other right-wing extremists.”

The reports, they added, “raise serious concerns about whether the FBI is allocating law enforcement and intelligence resources in a manner that reflects the scale of the threat posed by violent white supremacists, whom [the Department of Homeland Security] has called ‘the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland.’”

In addition to Durbin, the other Democrats who signed the letter are Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Christopher A. Coons (Del.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), Alex Padilla (Calif), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.).

8:06 p.m.
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GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde appealing $5,000 fine for bypassing House metal detector

Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) is appealing the $5,000 fine he received for refusing to pass through a metal detector before entering the House chamber, arguing that the security measure put in place after Jan. 6 is unconstitutional.

Clyde has argued that the magnetometers have “impeded” lawmakers from voting and called it “a ridiculous break in congressional precedent.” He said he is using a private attorney to file an appeal with the House Ethics Committee.

Clyde and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) were both fined earlier this month on the day the House voted to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) from her committee assignments. Gohmert has also said he would appeal the fine.

“While my name formally appears on the documentation, I am filing this appeal symbolically on behalf of my constituents in the Ninth Congressional District of Georgia, because it is their vote that is being impeded by Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi’s egregious actions,” Clyde said in a statement.

Clyde and Gohmert were the first to be fined under a new rule passed along party lines to fine members who skirt the security screening to get into the House chamber. If the fine is not paid, the amount is deducted from their salary.

7:57 p.m.
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Becerra’s views on Medicare-for-all, California’s actions during pandemic draw scrutiny at Senate hearing

The Senate Finance Committee’s confirmation hearing for Xavier Becerra’s nomination to lead the Department of Health and Human Services opened Wednesday with the panel’s top Republican questioning his views on single-payer health care and religious rights.

“You have long been an advocate for moving all Americans to a government-run Medicare-for-all plan, raising concerns with me that your policy preferences could undermine the Medicare programs that rely on private insurance,” Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) told Becerra, a Democratic congressman for two decades who is now California’s attorney general.

Crapo noted that conservatives have been critical of what he called “California’s restrictive actions” to manage the coronavirus pandemic, including a ban on indoor religious services that was struck down by the Supreme Court. Crapo also questioned California’s legal challenge, led by Becerra, of a Trump administration policy that widened the ability of employers to avoid providing contraceptive coverage required under the Affordable Care Act, if they have religious or moral objections.

Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) countered by praising Becerra’s legislative and executive experience leading the nation’s largest state justice department, saying critics are “straining awfully hard to find something to critique.”

Wednesday’s hearing is the second of back-to-back appearances by Becerra on Capitol Hill. He testified Tuesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has jurisdiction over many health-care issues. The Finance Committee, however, is the one that will vote in coming days on whether to forward Becerra’s nomination to the full Senate.

With the smallest possible majority, Democrats appear to have the votes to confirm Becerra as the next HHS secretary, since none have signaled any plan to object to him. Some GOP senators and outside conservative groups are energetically objecting to his nomination, citing his support for abortion rights.

7:41 p.m.
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Biden meets with bipartisan group of lawmakers on ‘a subject matter we all agree on’

Biden convened an Oval Office meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers — including some very conservative ones — to discuss vulnerabilities in U.S. supply chains for critical items, including computer chips.

“It’s nice to have everyone down here on a subject matter we all agree on and figure out how we get it all done,” he said during a small portion of the meeting that the news media was permitted to witness.

Biden, who was joined by Vice President Harris, plans to sign an executive order related to the issue later Wednesday. It will also be aimed at avoiding a repeat of the shortages of personal protective gear such as masks and gloves experienced last year in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a list provided by the White House, the Republicans in Wednesday’s meeting were Sens. John Cornyn (Tex.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Mike Braun (Ind.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) and Reps. John Joyce (Pa.) and Michael McCaul (Tex.).

“John Cornyn and the bipartisan group here put together an effort last year that I think is a pretty good effort on how to deal with these chips,” Biden said.

The Democrats present were Sens. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.) and Mark R. Warner (Va.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (Calif.).

As media outlets were ushered out, a reporter asked Biden what he had to say to the Republicans gathered who haven’t acknowledged his election victory.

“You’ll have to ask them,” Biden said with a laugh.

In an exchange with reporters after the meeting, McCaul said he was grateful to Biden for focusing on the issue so soon after taking office.

“I want to commend the president for making this a priority,” McCaul said. “When I talked to Secretary of State Blinken, the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, the president, the vice president — they get this, that we’ve got to focus on decoupling our supply chain from the Chinese Communist Party, particularly on medical, on rare earth minerals, but semiconductors as well.”

7:14 p.m.
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Analysis: After the Jan. 6 ransacking, Congress debates how open the Capitol should be

Capitol security has always been partly about appearances, something that became clear again during a Senate hearing Tuesday about the lessons learned from the Jan. 6 riot as Congress affirmed the 2020 presidential election results.

Even before all the details of that riot have come to light, a bipartisan group of lawmakers expressed alarm about the continued use of National Guard troops and barbed-wire fencing on the nearly 60-acre campus, warning against turning the nation’s most important symbol of democracy into a military encampment.

This push and pull — actual safety vs. the importance of symbolic freedom — came to a head at Tuesday’s hearing.

6:20 p.m.
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Psaki says White House isn’t considering alternatives to Tanden

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Feb. 24 that replacements for Office of Management and Budget nominee Neera Tanden are not being considered. (The Washington Post)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the White House is not considering replacements for embattled nominee Neera Tanden to lead the Office of Management and Budget and asserted that a delay in committee votes should not be considered a setback.

Well, there’s one nominee to lead the budget department. Her name’s Neera Tanden, and that’s who we’re continuing to fight for,” Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Budget Committee abruptly postponed votes on Tanden scheduled for Wednesday.

Asked by a reporter if she considered that a setback, Psaki said: “I wouldn’t put it in those terms.”

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Republican lawmakers have raised concerns about Tanden’s now-deleted tweets targeting GOP senators, and the White House has made little apparent progress in courting Republican senators to support the nomination in the evenly divided chamber.

“She’s an expert whose qualifications are critical during this time of an unprecedented crisis,” Psaki said. “And she has rolled up our sleeves. She’s very engaged in doing outreach to senators, to members on the Hill, answering any questions they have and offering to do that. And we’re doing the same.”

Asked if Tanden has offered to withdraw, Psaki said: “That’s not the stage we’re in. … The stage we’re in is working to continue to fight for her nomination.”

5:10 p.m.
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William Burns gets warm reception at Senate confirmation hearing to become next CIA director

William J. Burns, a veteran diplomat who in his career helped lead secret negotiations with Iran and served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia, received a warm reception Wednesday from the Senate Intelligence Committee at his confirmation hearing to become the next CIA director.

The notably uncontentious hearing focused on threats from China and Russia and gave Burns the opportunity to showcase his three decades of experience in foreign policy, when he often worked closely with the spy agency.

No senator raised even a hint of opposition to Burns’s nomination. At times, members were more interested in his views on what U.S. policy ought to be toward foreign adversaries than how he would organize the CIA to tackle those challenges. As Burns noted, the CIA doesn’t make policy, it supports those who do.