Biden could struggle to get additional candidates confirmed quickly, as these assurances may be suspended until Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer agree on a resolution outlining how to share power in the Senate, he said. Members of the Republican and Democratic Party Wed.
Hines’ confirmation of the first day was in doubt for most of Wednesday, after Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas objected to her assertion until she clarified her answer during the Senate Intelligence Committee’s confirmation hearing about the CIA interrogation program during the George W. Bush administration. Haines responded to a written follow-up question on Wednesday, and Cotton raised his fist, clearing the way for Wednesday’s vote.
Haines will become the first woman to hold the position of Director of National Intelligence, running an intelligence community that has been repeatedly shattered and marginalized by Trump throughout his four years in office. The Director of National Intelligence is the president’s most senior intelligence official and leads an agency that coordinates the entire intelligence community, a total of 17 agencies and organizations.
In addition to Haines, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is another candidate who will likely get a speedy vote in the Senate, but an agreement is still needed to hold the vote on the nominations. It remains to be seen when the other candidates can be considered.
Cotton’s interim contract, however, highlights obstacles to quickly confirming Biden’s nominees, with the Senate vote bypassing committees that require the cooperation of all 100 senators. Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley said Tuesday he would block the swift confirmation of Biden’s homeland security candidate, Alejandro Mayuras, over immigration policy.
Senator Roy Blunt, a member of the Republican leadership in the Senate, told CNN, “I think the committees will stop until they are agreed.”
However, McConnell did ask Schumer for assurances that disruption would be avoided, something Schumer has not yet done. Schumer called Senate rules to reverse the 2001 agreement when the room was also initially split 50-50, with both sides having equal numbers of seats on committees and equal votes on legislation and nominations would go straight to the floor.
Cotton asked for clarification on the interrogation response
Until Haines is sworn in, the position of Director of National Intelligence will be filled in an acting capacity by ODNI’s Director of Operations Laura Xiao, a senior intelligence official told CNN.
Xiao held the position of Operations Director under President Donald Trump John Ratcliffe, who had left the position as expected.
At the CIA, Biden’s choice of deputy director, David Cohen, will act as acting director until the permanent candidate is confirmed. Biden’s choice of director of the CIA is former diplomat William Burns.
Haines pledged at her appointment hearing to take politics out of the intelligence community, four years later Trump has been in perpetual conflict with the intelligence community and accused the so-called “deep state” of undermining his presidency. In a sign that Biden is prioritizing her role, he has appointed Haines as a good DNI pick before choosing a CIA director, and he does not hold the CIA position as a member of his cabinet as Trump did.
“Given the critical importance of the Director of National Intelligence’s role to our country’s security, it is appropriate that Avril Haines now becomes the first member of the new administration to be confirmed by the Senate in an overwhelming bipartisan vote,” said the Democrat. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, incoming chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “After being deliberately undermined for four years, the intelligence community deserves a strong leader certified by the Senate to lead and revitalize it.”
On Wednesday, Cotton said he also wanted to confirm Haines quickly given her important intelligence role. But he said he was concerned about Haines’ response to a question from Democratic Oregon Senator Ron Wyden about accountability within the CIA over the Bush-era interrogation program that included the use of harsh tactics such as waterboarding.
After reviewing the “torture report” issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2013, Wyden indicated in a Wednesday hearing that the CIA had recommended expanding accountability reviews to include “systemic failures to hold accountable individuals responsible for failures.”
“Do you agree with this recommendation, and if confirmed will you seek to apply it to the intelligence community?” Wyden asked.
Haines replied, “Yes, Senator, I agree with the 2013 recommendation that the CIA referred to, and to broaden the accountability review boards approach that the report identified.”
Cotton, who did not question Haines during the open hearing on Tuesday, said Haines was asked to clarify her answer during the subsequent closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Submit a written question afterwards.
During the subsequent closed session, you made it clear that, if confirmed, any changes to the structure of the accountability review boards or other administrative procedures would be forward-looking, and that you would not file a lawsuit regarding the outcome of the CIA review of the handover program or the Obama administration’s closure of related investigations. Cotton Hines asked, “Can you confirm that you will not energize efforts to prosecute, take administrative action against, or bias in any future promotion or selection committee for any CIA employee involved in this program under Department of Justice direction and presidential direction?”
Cotton said he has received enough assurances from Haines to lift the comment on her candidacy. “I am ready to vote on this nomination,” he said.
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.