Senate Confirms Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security

As President Trump made his way down the parade route, the Senate got to work.

January 20, 2017, 8:06 PM

— -- The Senate confirmed two of President Donald Trump's cabinet nominees Friday just hours after his swearing in, and scheduled a third confirmation vote next Monday.

In a 98-1 vote, the Senate confirmed retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis as Trump's secretary of Defense, with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, opposing his nomination and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, Trump's pick for attorney general, not voting.

Later Friday evening, the Senate also approved Gen. John Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security in a vote of 88-11.

Trump, in his first White House statement, said he was "pleased" by the confirmation votes on the two top national security positions.

"These uniquely qualified leaders will immediately begin the important work of rebuilding our military, defending our nation and securing our borders. I am proud to have these two American heroes join my administration," he said.

Eight years ago, the Senate cleared seven of President Obama's nominees on his first day in office, and 13 by the end of the first week.

The votes on Trump's national security team came as a trio of Senate Democrats threatened to hold up a confirmation vote on Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, Trump's pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. As top congressional leaders mingled at a lunch shortly after Trump's swearing in, top Senate Republicans and Democrats were still wrangling over when to bring Pompeo's nomination to the Senate floor.

Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut and Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, demanded more time to debate Pompeo's nomination.

PHOTO: Donald Trump's Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis (C) arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. He was the first Trump Cabinet nominee confirmed by the Senate today, with a 98-1 vote.
Donald Trump's Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis (C) arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. He was the first Trump Cabinet nominee confirmed by the Senate today, with a 98-1 vote.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republicans chafed at Democrats' comments on the first day of a new administration.

"Why the hell can't we just go ahead and give the president his national security team?" said Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, on the Senate floor.

The Senate will hold additional debate and vote on Pompeo's confirmation Monday, after holding a procedural vote today. The Senate cleared that measure in a 89-8 vote.

Several Senate panels will vote on Trump's nominees next week, including Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, has not said if he'll support Tillerson, and could be a deciding vote against the nomination in committee.

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