President-elect Joe Biden has already started naming his nominees for the top posts in his cabinet. However, the road to confirmation for Biden’s picks is expected to be a tough one, especially with surfacing reports about their links to consulting and investment companies are proven.
According to The New York Times, Biden’s cabinet picks have links to consulting firm WestExec Advisors and investment fund Pine Island Capital Partners. The nominees’ reported involvement raises questions from ethics groups, fearing that the officials would have the ability to craft policies beneficial to their former clients. Ethics watchdogs are also worried that his officials with previous affiliations might give special access to certain companies.
Critics are asking Biden’s transition team to disclose all company ties and clients of the high-ranking nominees. Mr. Biden’s camp has insisted that his administration will be the “most ethically rigorous” in American history. But while they are open to revealing the previous ties of the current cabinet picks, the transition team said that the ethics rules also state that officials can withhold their clients’ identities based on confidentiality agreements.
Reacting to the mixed signal of the Biden’s transition team, Texas Senator John Cornyn said on Twitter that they were obligated to approve candidates’ nomination if they decided to hide information about their company ties. The Republican senator stopped short of saying that the nominees should disclose all information or face rejection from the Senate when Biden assumes office in January.
Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense nominee Michele Flournoy are two of the founders of WestExec, and both served as Pine Island Capital advisers at some point. Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines is also a former employee of WestExec along with transition team members Christina Killingsworth, Ely Ratner, and Jennifer Psaki.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for President-elect Biden, said that Blinken took a leave from the two companies when he decided to join the campaign back in August. On the other hand, a Pine Island spokesman confirmed that Flournoy is still with the firm. Bates said that all nominees would have to leave the firm and sell their ownership stake before facing the Senate for their confirmation.
However, regardless of the nominees’ decision regarding their ties with several companies, there is a growing belief that Republicans will block Biden’s nominees. Dr. Casey Burgat, a Political Management professor at The George Washington University Graduate School, told Spectrum News that he believes that the Republican party will give the Democrats a taste of their own medicine once the confirmation process begins.
Burgat said that the Republicans might seek revenge this time after their Democratic counterparts blocked or slowed down President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees’ confirmation before. Brookings Institution revealed that 39 critical posts in 15 cabinet departments were unfilled during Trump’s administration, which forced the president to appoint acting chiefs instead.
The Republicans currently hold control of the Senate, which will make it more difficult for Biden’s nominees if the current numbers stand. However, the Democrats could turn the tables around if they win the pair of runoff elections in Georgia. If both Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win, it will result in a 50-50 tie. The Democratic Party will gain majority control with breaking vote in the U.S. Senate.
Meanwhile, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton also criticized Biden’s choice for his cabinet’s top spot. Cotton said on Twitter that Biden has been saying all along that he wants to unify the country, but the president-elect is showing otherwise because he is building a national security team that is “weak on China.”
Cotton was referring to Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas, who was criticized during the Obama administration for helping Democrats-connected foreign investors through the EB-5 visa program.
This is not the first time that Biden was blasted for his possible links to China. During the campaign, media exposed his son’s stunning Chinese business venture. According to Fox Baltimore, Tony Bobulinski, a former business partner of Hunter Biden, and James Biden, the brother of President-elect Joe Biden, claimed in a news conference that Hunter Biden consulted with his father about their business venture with Chinese oil company CEFC China Energy. Bobulinski said that he had a meeting with Hunter, James, and Joe in 2017 about the business transaction.
Bobulinski also claimed that he has three phones that he was planning to surrender to the FBI to prove Joe’s involvement in the discussion. Bates came to Biden’s defense during the campaign, denying Bobulinski’s accusations. The spokesman insisted that the former vice president was not involved at all in family businesses. Wall Street Journal reported that the meeting took place after Joe Biden left the office of Vice President of America.