Sarah May
February 12, 2024
10:20 pm

Biden attempts to sidestep the Senate to confirm John Kerry's replacement

Former Secretary of State John Kerry recently left his post as the Biden administration's special envoy on climate, and controversy soon followed with the choice of his replacement, a personnel change made in such a way as to evade the Senate confirmation process, as Fox News reports.

Though Republicans have raised their voices in protest to the aforementioned appointment, perhaps more interesting is the deafening silence from moderate Senate Democrats in response to what appears to be a cagey workaround for filling a position that would ordinarily require lawmakers' approval.

Podesta picked as successor

It was announced at the beginning of this month that upon Kerry's departure, former White House chief of staff and longtime Democrat operative John Podesta would take over his climate-change related duties on behalf of the administration, as Reuters reported.

Podesta, 75, has played roles in a number of recent presidential administrations, as he was the chairman of Hillary Clinton's failed 2016 presidential bid, and most recently handled implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, President Joe Biden's far-reaching climate legislation.

Discussing his new assignment, Podesta explained, “Secretary Kerry has put the U.S. back in leadership on climate around the world. And we'll ensure that we keep up the momentum that has been built up through his efforts.”

Strategic succession

However, as Fox News notes, the handoff between Kerry and Podesta will not be a perfectly aligned one, as Biden decided not to nominate a direct replacement for the former secretary of State, a tactic that has raised some eyebrows due to the senatorial scrutiny it appears designed to evade.

Rather than moving right into Kerry's former role, Podesta will instead coordinate work on his assigned issue areas from the White House, while Kerry's remaining staff will report to different official within the State Department.

As such, the administration believes Podesta will be able to avoid the process of Senate confirmation, given that Kerry's former role technically remains vacant.

Though Kerry himself did not undergo such a confirmation process for the job that afforded him a Cabinet spot and a position on the National Security Council, Congress subsequently passed a measure that prohibits the president from naming State Department envoys “without the advice and consent of the Senate.”

Republicans cry foul

Some in the GOP have stepped forward to blast the administration's maneuver, suggesting that the White House understands that Biden's choice for the job would face an uphill battle in a Senate confirmation process and is therefore looking to sidestep it.

“John Podesta is a John Kerry clone. He will peddle more of the same attacks on American energy. He will protect China's status as a free rider on international climate agreements,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY). “Joe Biden knows Podesta's radical ideas could never stand up to the scrutiny of Senate confirmation.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) agreed, saying, “John Podesta runs a think-tank funded by big tech, he's spent years working for dark-money climate activists, and has said he has the 'highest regard' for CCP officials. This man should be nowhere near the federal government, so it's no shock the Biden Administration wants to avoid Senate confirmation and a public eye on their terrible pick.”

Though a host of moderate Democrats, including Sens. Jon Tester (MT), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Bob Casey (PA), Sherrod Brown (OH) and others did not offer comment on the situation, Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Jim Rish (R-ID) believes that anyone in a position such as the one Podesta will hold – which will rely heavily on State Department resources – should be accountable to congressional committees that hold jurisdiction over the department.

It is not just Podesta's appointment to the post that has drawn significant scrutiny in recent days, with House Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-KY) recently demanding that the administration provide “unredacted documents and communications” related to what he called Kerry's “collusion with leftist environmental groups” as well as details of his office staff and payroll during his time on the job, information that is also being sought via a FOIA lawsuit filed by energy watchdog Power the Future.

Written By:
Sarah May

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