Top National Security Posts Sit Empty, Mired in Senate ‘Purgatory’

Not only has that not happened, Senate logjams and partisan battles over nominees have gotten worse. It now takes nearly four months for a presidential nominee to be confirmed, compared with half that time in the Reagan era. More than 200 Biden nominees are languishing in “confirmation purgatory,” some of them for months, Mr. Stier said.

The problems started in January, when, amid a surge in domestic terrorism, Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, slowed confirmation of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas, saying he had questions about his stance on immigration. At the time, Michael Chertoff, a homeland security secretary during the George W. Bush administration, called the slow-walking “irresponsible and unconscionable,” saying it could “put the lives of Americans in jeopardy.”

This spring, Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, slowed the confirmation of three Department of Homeland Security nominees — the deputy secretary, the under secretary for strategy, policy and plans and the general counsel — seeking greater administration attention on the U.S. border with Mexico. The deputy secretary, John K. Tien, has been on the job for less than two months, and Robert Silvers, the under secretary for strategy, for less than a month.

In August, the Senate left for its monthlong summer break with nearly 30 State Department nominees in limbo. Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, is blocking their confirmation votes while demanding that Mr. Biden impose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany. Among the nominees that Mr. Cruz has bottled up is Brett M. Holmgren, who was nominated in March as assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research.

But it is not only Republicans slowing the process.

Democrats grouse that liberal members of their party balk at nominees with corporate backgrounds, making acceptable appointees harder to find. Moderate Democrats have also raised objections about some nominees.

On Thursday, Mr. Biden withdrew his nomination of David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats, and Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, joined Republicans in objecting to Mr. Chipman’s past statements supporting some gun control.

Jamie S. Gorelick, who served on the 9/11 Commission, called the Senate’s approach “lackadaisical” and “dangerous.” During the Clinton administration, Ms. Gorelick was the Pentagon’s general counsel, and later the deputy attorney general. Then too, “it was hand-to-hand combat getting individual assistant secretaries and the like confirmed,” she said.

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