Senate confirms seven Cabinet-level nominees

The Senate acted swiftly just hours after President Obama's inauguration ceremonies to confirm six of his Cabinet nominees as well as his budget director.

By unanimous consent, the Senate confirmed at 3:42 p.m. Tuesday the nominations of Obama's picks to lead the departments of Energy (Steven Chu), Education (Arne Duncan), Homeland Security (Janet Napolitano), Interior (Ken Salazar), Veterans Affairs (Eric Shinseki) and Agriculture (Tom Vilsack).

The Senate also confirmed Peter Orszag to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, a Cabinet-level post. With those seven approvals, Obama came close to matching President George W. Bush's record of moving seven of his nominees into their new posts in 2001 on the same afternoon he was sworn in.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's confirmation to be secretary of State was delayed by a day at the insistence of Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who requested a roll-call vote on her nomination. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate will have three hours to debate Clinton's appointment Wednesday before they vote Wednesday afternoon.

"I expect her to be easily confirmed," Cornyn conceded during an interview. But he explained that he wanted to deny Clinton unanimous-consent affirmation on Inauguration Day so he could use a floor vote to "air my concerns" that Bill and Hillary Clinton have not been "transparent enough" about President Clinton's foundation fundraising from foreign nationals. Cornyn wants the Clintons to do "more work" to eliminate conflicts of interest.

"If it doesn't get handled now, then it probably won't get handled, so it's important to talk about it," he told National Journal.

Cornyn said GOP senators may seek to place a hold on the confirmation of Eric Holder to be attorney general, once Holder wins approval from the Judiciary Committee, which could happen Wednesday. Such a hold would carry Senate consideration over into next week.

As he departed the Capitol Tuesday, Cornyn said he had spoken to Hillary Clinton about his concerns, and explained that he hoped to win changes in the disclosure agreement worked out between President Clinton and the government, because she is the nation's "top diplomat." The former first lady told Cornyn she had agreed to unusual disclosures and accountability measures to make her husband's transactions more visible, and that she hoped that any additional steps the Senate seeks would not be "specific to her," Cornyn said. Their conversations, he added, were "cool and civil. She understands the concerns."

Check out the blog Lost in Transition, a joint effort of Government Executive and National Journal.

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