After all the jubilation over Joe Biden’s inauguration – a mixture of relief that Donald Trump resigned without any new outbreaks of violence, joy at the cheerful mood at the inauguration and praise for his inclusive personnel policy – there is definitely cause for critical comments. For example, because the Senate confirmed the new Pentagon boss Lloyd Austin as the first minister on Friday, with 93 to 2 votes.
One can perhaps still understand that the Senate Intelligence chief Avril Haines on Wednesday evening as the first head of the government department with cabinet rank. The new president must be informed of the security situation by someone he trusts.
But does the Secretary of Defense really have top priority in the current threat situation in the US? Is his appointment more urgent than that of health minister-designate Xavier Becerra in the deadly corona crisis? Or that of the nominated Labor Minister Marty Walsh in the mass unemployment that followed in the pandemic?
Biden also continues the dubious practice of nominating a retired general. In democracies, a civilian is supposed to hold office to express the primacy of politics over the military. In addition: Lloyd Austin does not have the mandatory grace period of seven years between the end of the military service and the change to the government. This also applied to his predecessor James Mattis under Trump.
Back then, the Democrats said they would do not participate again. The House of Representatives has now given an overwhelming majority Austin exemption, with 326 votes to 78. Where is the alleged return to respect for the well-founded rules and norms that are supposed to distinguish Biden from Trump?
Symbolism and enforceability take precedence over urgency
The order of the confirmations in the Senate is apparently dictated by considerations other than urgency: for example, political symbolism and easy enforceability in a Senate in which both camps, Republicans and Democrats, each have 50 seats and, in the event of a stalemate, Vice President Kamala Harris has the The decisive factor.
Biden wants to avoid fighting votes; the motto of his inaugural address was “Unity”, meaning unity, reconciliation and the promise to approach the opposition.
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Lloyd Austin stands for both: symbolic power and non-confrontational confirmation in the Senate. The 67-year-old four-star general is the first African-American Pentagon boss. Before him, Republican Colin Powell was Secretary of State under George W. Bush. The Republicans put no obstacles in the way of Austin’s appointment. They celebrate successful soldiers as heroes and do not deny an ex-military ministerial honor, even if he is a democrat.
The composition of his government shows that Biden wants to stand out with historical premieres (here is a list of short portraits). All currents and minorities are taken into account. When first transgender person in the cabinet, Rachel Levine is to become State Secretary in the Minister of Health. And for the first time received an indigenous ministerial title, Deb Haaland as Minister of the Interior.
In parallel in the Senate run Hearings for candidatesnext week: Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Attorney General Merrick Garland – whom the Republicans refused to hear as Supreme Court judge in the last year of Obama’s term – Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, CIA chief William Burns, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and Infrastructure Secretary Pete Buttigieg. By and large, national security remains a priority. Not because America is so threatened, but because it is easiest for Democrats and Republicans to agree.