A host of President Obama’s nominees to key executive branch posts advanced Saturday in an unusual Senate session, setting up the likely confirmation early next week to fill vacancies at the State Department, the surgeon general, energy boards and other agencies.
As Democrats and a bloc of conservative Republicans jousted on parliamentary disputes on an unrelated matter, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) took advantage of the dispute to set up a string of votes on nominees that might have otherwise not made it to confirmation before the session adjourned. Once this session ends, the Republicans take charge next month and have vowed to block any nominee a vast majority of them oppose.
“We’re feeling we have the upper hand right now,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of Reid’s leadership team, said.
The nominees will wait until next week for final confirmation, but their fate is now almost certain because Reid took the initial steps to set up confirmation votes.
Among the nominees who will be confirmed next week:
●Antony Blinken, a longtime adviser to Vice President Biden who serves as Obama’s deputy national security adviser, to serve as deputy secretary of state;
● Sarah Saldana, a U.S. attorney in Texas, to serve as the assistant secretary of homeland security, overseeing enforcement of immigration laws;
● Vivek Murthy, a Massachusetts doctor, to serve as surgeon general.
Murthy has been opposed by the National Rifle Association over his comments on Twitter about gun violence and gun laws. Blinken has run afoul of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a staunch critic of the White House’s national security decisions. And Saldana has been caught up in the high-level fight over Obama’s executive action that deferred deportations for several million illegal immigrants.
Democrats expect to confirm about 20 nominees over a few days next week, using their last days in the majority to help fill out Obama’s executive branch and add to the total of lifetime appointments to the federal bench.