WASHINGTON -- The Senate confirmed former Gen. James Mattis as defense secretary and Gen. John Kelly to run the Homeland Security Department as Democrats balked at Republicans' demand to also install the CIA director on President Donald Trump's first day in office.
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The Senate voted 98-1 for Mattis and 88-11 for Kelly while Trump's inaugural parade was proceeding from the Capitol to the White House on a damp evening in Washington. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., voted in support of both nominations.
Republicans backed off threats to work through the weekend to break the logjam over the nomination of Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., to run the CIA, scheduling a vote for Monday.
"We live in dangerous times," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor. He said before the votes that confirming Mattis and Kelly was "not enough" to get Trump's national security team in place.
Trump issued a statement Friday evening saying he was pleased that Mattis and Kelly were approved as he called on the Senate to "swiftly confirm the remainder of my highly qualified Cabinet nominees."
Vice President Mike Pence swore in Mattis and Kelly, during a hastily arranged ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building that houses the vice president's suite of offices.
Mattis said in a statement Friday evening that he recognizes that "no nation is secure without friends" and is pledging to "work with the State Department to strengthen" the nation's alliances. The Pentagon, he added, is "devoted to gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, thereby earning the trust of Congress and the American people."
In the Senate, Democrats are withholding support from almost all of Trump's other Cabinet nominees, threatening to slow-walk proceedings on the floor if the president doesn't force his picks to go back to the committees and answer more questions.
"If there was ever a group of Cabinet nominees that cry out for rigorous scrutiny, it's this one," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday, calling Trump's Cabinet "a swamp full of billionaires" beset with "conflicts and ethical issues as far as the eye can see."
While Schumer said Democrats were willing to begin debate on Pompeo's nomination, three Democrats announced they wanted an extended debate.
"It makes no sense to leave the post open -- not for another week, not for another day, not for another hour," McConnell said. "America's enemies will not pause in plotting, planning and training because the Democrats refuse to vote."
Schumer asked the Trump transition Thursday to keep sitting CIA Director John Brennan in place until a final vote Monday -- much as Barack Obama kept former CIA Director Michael Hayden in place for three weeks after his own presidential inauguration. The request was not granted: Brennan, who has criticized Trump's recent comments on the U.S. intelligence community, left Friday upon Trump's inauguration.
John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said Democrats were acting like a "sore loser" by threatening to delay confirmations.
"I think we ought to be prepared to push back and push back hard to confirm more nominees," he said. "And in the end, it's really just a question of fair play. We confirmed seven Obama nominees on Jan. 20, 2009, and this just strikes me as having all the attributes of a sore loser."
Cornyn told reporters before the inauguration that he'd like to see the entire national security team, including secretary of state pick Rex Tillerson and attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, confirmed Friday.
But Democrats dismissed the idea outright -- neither man has received a vote in committee yet.
"Absolutely not going to happen," said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. Tillerson, who recently stepped down as CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., hasn't won the backing of Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, who said he's still reviewing Tillerson's answers to written questions he received Thursday. The committee is scheduled to vote Monday on his nomination.
Cornyn also said Democrats should allow confirmations of nominees who he says aren't controversial -- Elaine Chao for transportation secretary, Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations, and Ben Carson as secretary of housing and urban development. And he wants his fellow Texan, former Gov. Rick Perry, confirmed as energy secretary.
Democrats also have signaled doubts about Treasury Department nominee Steven Mnuchin, grilling the billionaire investor Thursday about his six-year tenure running a mortgage bank after the 2008 economic crisis, as well as his failure to initially disclose hundreds of millions of dollars of personal assets to the Senate Finance Committee.
Information for this article was contributed by Steven T. Dennis and Laura Litvan of Bloomberg News; by Karoun Demirjian and Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post; and by staff members of The Associated Press.
A Section on 01/21/2017
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