New Senate confirms Biden intelligence chief

Top News | ASSOCIATED PRESS 22 Jan 2021

Three new senators have been sworn into office after Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges.

In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines.

Senators worked into the evening and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first cabinet member, in what is traditionally a show of good faith on inauguration day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president's administration.

Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden's security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation's intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10.

The new Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer urged colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president's call for unity into action.

"President Biden, we heard you loud and clear," Schumer said in his first speech as majority leader. "We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together."

Vice President Kamala Harris drew applause as she entered the chamber to deliver the oath of office to the new Democratic senators - Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla - just hours after taking her own oath at the Capitol alongside Biden.

The three Democrats join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote.

Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr's church in Atlanta, won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans. Padilla was tapped by California's governor to finish the remainder of Harris' term.

Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the Covid-19 crisis and its economic fallout and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly January 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to single-term president Donald Trump.

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