Senate confirms former Obama chief of staff to oversee VA
Secretary of Veterans Affairs nominee Denis McDonough speaks during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Washington. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP)WASHINGTON – The Senate has overwhelmingly voted to confirm President Joe Biden’s pick to oversee the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Senate confirmed Denis McDonough as VA secretary by a vote of 87-7 on Monday. McDonough will oversee a sprawling agency that has presented organizational challenges for both parties over the years. McDonough replaces Robert Wilkie, who served as VA secretary under President Donald Trump.
Biden's challenge: Building Cabinet that meets all his goals
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)WASHINGTON – Shortly after President-elect Joe Biden’s victory last month, Cabinet hopeful Marcia Fudge pointedly noted that Black people are often typecast into positions such as housing secretary. He’s pledged to nominate the most diverse Cabinet in history and restore experience at beleaguered federal agencies. The GOP has barely acknowledged Biden's victory so the cooperation of its senators in the confirmation process is far from certain. “That’s why we are worried.”One prominent feature of Biden’s picks so far: deep ties to the Obama administration. Brent Colburn, a former Obama administration official who served in several agencies, encouraged Democrats to consider the bigger picture as they judge Biden's Cabinet.
American Legion, Pelosi joining calls for VA chief's ouster
“It is unfair to expect accountability from the nearly 400,000 VA employees and not demand the same from its top executive. Wilkie and other senior officials had declined to fully cooperate with the investigation by VA Inspector General Michael Missal. Wilkie is Trump’s second VA secretary after David Shulkin was fired in 2018. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to rebuild trust in the VA when he takes office on Jan. 20. He has selected Denis McDonough, who served as President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff, to be VA secretary.
Vets groups demand Wilkie's dismissal after scathing audit
“The accountability, professionalism and respect that our veterans have earned, and quite frankly deserve, is completely lost in this current VA leadership team,” said B.J. Wilkie and other senior officials had declined to fully cooperate with the investigation by VA Inspector General Michael Missal. Wilkie is President Donald Trump’s second VA secretary after David Shulkin was fired in 2018. “VA can and must do better,” said Randy Reese, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters. He has selected Denis McDonough, who served as President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff, to be VA secretary.
Biden: Cabinet picks from Obama era mean 'bold new thinking'
His choice for agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, served in the same post for Obama for eight years. Above all, they know how government should and can work for all Americans.”Relying too heavily on Obama administration veterans has already begun to draw some grumbling from members of Biden's own party, however. Mark Riddle, a Democratic strategist who founded a pro-Biden Super PAC during the 2020 presidential campaign, said there is no danger in relying too heavily on “all star” former Obama administration leaders. “If we come out of the box on jobs, jobs, jobs, I feel great. Biden said his choices “have different backgrounds and lived experiences.”“And," he said “they all reflect the very best of our nation.”
Obama reunion? Biden fills Cabinet with former WH leaders
President-elect Joe Biden is nominating former President Barack Obama's White House chief of staff Denis McDonough as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Increasingly deep into the process of selecting Cabinet members and other senior staff, the incoming Biden administration has a distinctly Obama feel. There's Denis McDonough, former President Barack Obama's chief of staff who Biden announced on Thursday would be nominated as the secretary of veterans affairs. Susan Rice, Obama's former U.N. ambassador and national security adviser, was named the director of Biden's White House Domestic Policy Council. Jeff Zients, who did stints as acting Office of Management and Budget director and a top economic adviser in the Obama White House, will return as Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator.
Watchdog faults VA chief over handling of sex assault report
“The response of Secretary Wilkie and senior VA officials to the veteran’s complaint of sexual assault was troubling,” Missal said in a statement. “The tone set by Secretary Wilkie appears to have influenced aspects of the initial VA police investigation and the conduct of other VA employees,” the report said. On Thursday, Biden said he will nominate Denis McDonough, who served as President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff, to be VA secretary. VA officials did not examine the information, the report said. A study released by the VA last year found 1 in 4 female veterans using VA health care reported inappropriate comments by male veterans on VA grounds.
AP source: Emanuel's Cabinet prospects increasingly unlikely
WASHINGTON – Rahm Emanuel’s chances of landing a top Cabinet post in Joe Biden's administration appear increasingly unlikely after the former Chicago mayor emerged as a source of controversy for the president-elect, who had been considering Emanuel for transportation secretary, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. Al Sharpton raised similar concerns during a meeting with Biden and other civil rights leaders, the person said. The person was not authorized to publicly discuss private deliberations and spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity. An announcement on transportation secretary is not believed to be imminent. Two other high profile Obama-era alumni were announced Thursday as joining the Biden administration — Denis McDonough as veterans' affairs secretary and Susan Rice to head the Domestic Policy Council.
Biden picks former Obama chief of staff McDonough for VA
FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2013, file photo, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough listens as President Barack Obama speaks at FBI Headquarters in Washington. President-elect Joe Biden is nominating former President Barack Obama's White House chief of staff Denis McDonough as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Biden is continuing to stockpile his administration with prominent alumni of the Obama administration. The bill came about following exposes during the Obama administration into mismanagement at some VA hospitals and mounting complaints by advocacy groups. As chief of staff, McDonough was also deeply involved in an overhaul of VA leadership after the scandals, which led to the ouster of the department’s secretary.
Psaki, next White House press secretary, a veteran messenger
FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2011, file photo Jen Psaki is seen in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. Much of that work will fall to Jen Psaki, Biden's pick for White House press secretary. “This job becomes one of the most recognizable people representing both the administration and the government writ large,” said Robert Gibbs, a former Obama press secretary. Both the president and his media team were frequently at odds with White House reporters while routinely spreading falsehoods. A native of Stamford, Connecticut, and a graduate of William & Mary, Psaki is part of an all-female senior communications team for the Biden White House.
Biden moves forward without help from Trump's intel team
As he contests this year's election results, Trump has not authorized President-elect Joe Biden to lay eyes on the brief. National security and intelligence experts hope Trump changes his mind, citing the need for an incoming president to be fully prepared to confront any national security issues on Day One. That's the type of information that might be in the PDB, a daily summary of high-level, classified information and analysis on national security issues that's been offered to presidents since 1946. It is coordinated and delivered by the Office of the National Intelligence Director with input from the CIA and other agencies. Biden is missing out on all counts: More than a week into his transition, Biden doesn't have access to the PDB, the agencies or government resources to help him get ready to take charge.
Trump's silent public outing belies White House in tumult
Trump's appearance Wednesday at the annual Veterans Day commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery was his first public outing for official business in more than a week. Staff working from the White House thinned out after chief of staff Mark Meadows confirmed last week that he had tested positive for the virus. Outside the White House, one prominent former ally turned Trump critic warned that the president was doing potentially irreparable damage to the Republican Party. White House spokesman Judd Deere said he was “not aware” of any communications between the White House and the GSA administrator on ascertainment. The Biden transition team has published an ethics plan and the Trump administration earlier established a White House Transition Coordinating Council as required by law.
Republican senators push for Biden to receive intelligence
The Senate Republicans advocated for Biden to receive the classified national security information even as they refused to acknowledge that the Democrat has won the presidential election, citing Trump's baseless claims of fraudulent votes. “At this point at least, I think he should absolutely be getting intelligence briefings," Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley said of Biden. While only a handful of Republicans have called Biden the president-elect, most were comfortable Thursday challenging the Trump administration on withholding intelligence information, which could constitute a national security risk when Biden assumes office. Intelligence agencies have given generalized intelligence briefings — minus information on covert operations and sources and methods — for presidential nominees since 1952. Biden, a former vice president, has decades of experience in foreign affairs and national security.
In VP search, Biden has a known quantity in Susan Rice
FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2010, file photo Vice President Joe Biden, center, and Susan Rice, the U.S. The 55-year-old has a long pedigree in foreign policy, but has never held elected office. She has also been a lightning rod for criticism from Republicans, who contend she put politics ahead of national security. 2 who could shoulder much of the early workload on foreign policy while Biden focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and reviving the economy. His entire theory of politics is personal relationships, Ben Rhodes, who served as Obamas deputy national security adviser, said of Biden.