Senate confirms first wave of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees

John Kelly and James Mad Dog Mattis
John Kelly (left) and James "Mad Dog Mattis (right)

The Senate confirmed President Donald Trump‘s first Cabinet member Friday evening, formally approving retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to be his defense secretary. Less than twenty minutes later, they confirmed retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to be his secretary of Homeland Security.

The final vote to confirm Mattis was 98-1 with New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand being the sole senator to vote against him. Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions — Trump’s nominee for attorney general — chose to abstain from the vote.

Lawmakers voted 88-11 in favor of Kelly,  who succeeds Obama’s DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson. Kelly previously served as commander of U.S. Southern Command under President Barack Obama from 2012 until this January.

Kentucky-Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also attemped to begin debate on Rep. Mike Pompeo’s Cabinet nomination as CIA Director following the Mattis and Kelly confirmations, but Oregon-Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden objected.

“We need to confirm a new director today,” McConnell told his colleagues. “We need to confirm the rest of the Cabinet as quickly as we can.”

Although Republicans have a Senate majority and will likely to confirm most, if not all, of Trump’s Cabinet, Democrats are able to slow the process by disagreeing to expedite Senate procedure.

The Senate will instead begin the six-hour debate on Pompeo Monday.

“No CIA director in history has ever been confirmed on Inauguration Day,” said Sens. Wyden, Patrick Leahy and Richard Blumenthal in a joint statement. “The importance of the position of CIA director, especially in these dangerous times, demands that the nomination be thoroughly vetted, questioned and debated.”