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Five Biden cabinet picks testify before Senate

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The Senate on Tuesday faced a slew of confirmation hearings for five of President-elect Joe Biden's cabinet nominees the day before the president-elect took office.

Biden's nominee to run the Treasury Department - Janet Yellen the former Federal Reserve Chair during the Obama administration - pledged to "act big" with the next coronavirus relief package.

JANET YELLEN: "Neither the president-elect, nor I, propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country's debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big.. I believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs, especially if we care about helping people who have been struggling for a very long time."

Biden's nominee to be secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said he'd work to revitalize America's damaged diplomacy and build a united front to counter the challenges posed by Russia, China and Iran.

ANTONY BLINKEN: "American leadership still matters."

Retired General Lloyd Austin - Biden's Defense Secretary pick - is seeking a special waiver from Congress to be considered even though he was an active-duty officer within the last seven years.

He left the army in 2016. Some Democrats have expressed concern as it would be the second such waiver in four years, the last being for President Trump's first defense secretary retired General Jim Mattis.

If he's confirmed, Austin would be the first Black defense secretary.

Unlike his recent predecessors, Biden will be taking office without his secretary of defense and members of his national security team confirmed because of delays caused by partisan gridlock, the Georgia Senate runoffs and a president that has refused to concede for weeks.

Overall, the exchanges between Democrats and Republicans during Tuesday's confirmation hearings appeared to be cordial with a desire for quick confirmations seen from both sides of the aisle, with the exception of Republican Senator Josh Hawley.

Hawley - who has been criticized for spearheading the objections to Biden's electoral college win - said on Tuesday he would block quick consideration of Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, citing concerns about Biden's immigration policies for holding up the confirmation.

Video Transcript

ANTONY BLINKEN: Thank you for the opportunity to be here today--

- The Senate on Tuesday faced a slew of confirmation hearings for five of President-elect Joe Biden's cabinet nominees the day before the President-elect took office. Biden's nominee to run the Treasury Department, Janet Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chair during the Obama administration, pledged to "act big" with the next coronavirus relief package.

JANET YELLEN: Neither the President-elect nor I propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country's debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big. In the long run, I believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs, especially if we care about helping people who've been struggling for a very long time.

- Biden's nominee to be Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said he'd work to revitalize America's damaged diplomacy and build a united front to counter the challenges posed by Russia, China, and Iran.

ANTONY BLINKEN: American leadership still matters.

- Retired general Lloyd Austin, Biden's Defense Secretary pick, is seeking a special waiver from Congress to be considered, even though he was an active duty officer within the last seven years. He left the army in 2016. Some Democrats have expressed concern, as it would be the second such waiver in four years, the last being for President Trump's first Defense Secretary, retired general Jim Mattis. If he's confirmed, Austin would be the first black Defense Secretary.

Unlike his recent predecessors, Biden will be taking office without his Secretary of Defense and members of his national security team confirmed, because of delays caused by partisan gridlock, the Georgia Senate runoffs, and a president that has refused to concede for weeks.

Overall, the exchanges between Democrats and Republicans during Tuesday's confirmation hearings appeared to be cordial, with a desire for quick confirmation seen from both sides of the aisle, with the exception of Republican Senator Josh Hawley. Hawley, who has been criticized for spearheading the objections to Biden's Electoral College win, said on Tuesday he would block a quick consideration of Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the US Department of Homeland Security, citing concerns about Biden's immigration policies for holding up the confirmation.