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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s Cabinet is starting to fill out, with nominees for agriculture secretary and United Nations ambassador gaining Senate approval Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he intends to wrap up the remaining nomination votes quickly.

“At a time of acute national challenge, we need qualified leaders atop our federal agencies — and fast,” he said Tuesday on the Senate floor.

“And that’s what we intend to do.”

Schumer couldn’t resist a jab at former President Donald Trump, saying that all Biden’s nominees are “undoubtedly qualified for their positions, a stark departure from the caliber of nominees the Senate was made to consider during the previous administration.”

But one of Biden’s nominees, Neera Tanden to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget, is clearly in trouble in the evenly divided Senate. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has said he opposes her confirmation.

Here’s what happened Tuesday:

UNITED NATIONS

The Senate voted 78-20 to approve career diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as United Nations Ambassador, a Cabinet-level position. A 35-year foreign service veteran who resigned during the Trump administration, Thomas-Greenfield will have to address multiple international relationships that were altered by Trump’s erratic and isolationist style.

“This confirmation sends a message that the United States is back and that our foreign service is back,” said Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., who chairs a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, global health and global human rights. “We as a country and as a world are safer with Linda Thomas-Greenfield serving as the United States ambassador to the United Nations.”

During confirmation hearings, Thomas-Greenfield faced some criticism from Senate Republicans who labeled her soft on China, citing a 2019 speech she gave to the Chinese-funded Confucius Institute in which she praised China’s massive infrastructure and influence program in Africa.

She said the speech had been a mistake and was not intended to be an endorsement of Chinese government policies. She said of China, “They are a threat to their neighbors, and they are a threat across the globe.”

___

AGRICULTURE

The Senate voted 92-7 to confirm Tom Vilsack for a return engagement as agriculture secretary.

The former Iowa governor spent eight years leading the same department under former President Barack Obama.

In his testimony, Vilsack, 70, heavily endorsed boosting climate-friendly agricultural industries such as the creation of biofuels, saying, “Agriculture is one of our first and best ways to get some wins in this climate area.”

Vilsack received minimal pushback or criticism during confirmation hearings. One of the few “no” votes came from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Sanders said he would have liked “somebody a little bit more vigorous in terms of protecting family farms and taking on corporate agriculture.”

Vilsack also heavily backed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — commonly known as food stamps, or SNAP — as a key instrument in helping the country’s most vulnerable families survive and recover from the coronavirus pandemic. His Trump-era predecessor, Sonny Perdue, had sought to purge hundreds of thousands of people from the SNAP-recipient lists.

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HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Health and Human Services nominee Xavier Becerra told senators that “strong federal leadership” was needed to confront the coronavirus pandemic. He also pledged to work to expand health insurance coverage, curb prescription drug costs and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in medical care.

Currently California’s attorney general, Becerra appeared Tuesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He has a second confirmation hearing Wednesday before the Finance Committee, which will vote on sending his nomination to the Senate floor.

On Tuesday, he pledged to work to expand the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, though he’s previously supported a government-run system like “Medicare for All.”

Although Democrats have backed Becerra, Republican opposition has grown louder.

“I’m not sold yet,” Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the ranking Republican on the health committee, said, addressing Becerra. “I’m not sure that you have the necessary experience or skills to do this job at this moment.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has called Becerra “famously partisan.” As California attorney general, Becerra filed 124 lawsuits challenged Trump administration actions.

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INTERIOR

Rep. Deb Haaland, Biden’s nominee to lead the Interior Department, fielded sharp questions from Republicans over what some called her “radical” ideas that include opposition to fracking and to the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The New Mexico congresswoman said she was determined to “strike the right balance” between conserving public lands and energy development. If confirmed, Haaland, 60, would be the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency.

Haaland’s hearing centered on her and Biden’s intentions regarding the future of fossil fuels. Her hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was adjourned after nearly 2 1/2 hours and will resume Wednesday.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., displayed a large chart featuring a quote from Haaland last November, before she was selected as Biden’s nominee. She said then: “If I had my way, it’d be great to stop all gas and oil leasing on federal and public lands.”

Manchin, the panel’s chair and a Democrat from coal-dependent West Virginia, has said he is undecided on Haaland’s nomination.

In response to questions from Manchin and others, Haaland said the U.S. will continue to rely on fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas even as it moves toward Biden’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by mid-century. The transition to clean energy “is not going to happen overnight,” she said.

___

Associated Press writers Matthew Lee, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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Tags: biden’s nominees during confirmation hearings biden’s nominee united nations ambassador the coronavirus pandemic linda thomas greenfield agriculture secretary trump administration the united states before the senate associated press former president the senate floor attorney general the senate voted foreign service questions west virginia fossil fuels public lands she said are a threat to lead has said he

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Joe Manchin Will Vote to Confirm Far-Left Deb Haaland for Interior Secretary

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced he would vote to confirm Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) to lead the Department of the Interior (DOI), joining the green-spree Democrats in their “radical” agenda against fossil fuel production in the United States.

Senate Majority Leader Joe Manchin announces that he’ll vote to confirm Deb Haaland for Interior secretary

— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) February 24, 2021

President Joe Biden’s pick to head the agency in charge of millions of acres of federal land and its energy infrastructure is hostile to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project, which transports over 500,000 barrels per day.

Haaland’s Congressional website features an essay titled “Fierce” about her participation in protesting the installation of the project, which lasted for weeks until winter weather set in.

In 2016, Debra Haaland cooked green chili and tortillas at the Standing Rock Sioux camps pitched against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Bringing food was her traditional way of contributing to the fight against the $3.8 billion pipeline.

She stayed in the camps for four days that September, but the environmental cause she came to support has resounded not only within her, but around the world.

“I first saw it on Facebook, but more and more people were coming out here from New Mexico and posting their experiences on Facebook and I just realized that I should come,” Haaland said. She is now one of the first female Native Representatives for New Mexico.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) questioned Haaland in her nomination hearing if she, upon confirmation, would recuse herself from any decision regarding the pipeline to avoid any conflict of interest.

Haaland did not answer directly but said that she would leave that decision to people at the agency who cover legal issues.

Biden’s war on domestic fossil fuel production has led North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum to lobby the administration not to disrupt the Dakota Access Pipeline’s operation so as to preserve jobs and investments.

“In a letter sent earlier this week, Burgum asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers not to shutter the pipeline after a federal judge last month ruled that it is running without a key permit at its Lake Oahe Crossing near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation,” the North Dakota-based Inforum website reported.

Experts say that the pipeline shutdown also could have a negative impact on food prices.

Stopping this energy resource will “hit the American people directly in the pocketbook,” Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of policy, economics, and regulatory affairs at the American Petroleum Institute, said in a Fox News report.

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