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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Some Senate Republicans are refusing to commit to confirmation hearings or votes for Joe Biden's Cabinet picks while election challenges from President Trump and others continue to play out.

Why it matters: The foot-dragging could prevent the president-elect from having key team members in place on Day One — just six weeks from today.

"As long as there's litigation ongoing, and the election result is disputed, I do not think you will see the Senate act to confirm any nominee," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told Axios.

  • Sen. Ron Johnson, who holds sway as chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said, "There's still some pretty troubling irregularities that haven't been explained."

The backdrop: Historically, a majority of a president's nominees receive hearings before the inauguration. That lets them be confirmed and get to work immediately when the newly minted president formally submits their appointment paperwork on Inauguration Day.

Speedy confirmations are especially important in the national security arena, where a president relies on his team at the Defense, State and Justice departments, as well as the FBI and CIA, to protect the country.

  • Some lawmakers, including many Republicans, argue this is even more important given the pandemic.
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who is retiring in January, said today, “We don't need to lose one hour or one day in that distribution."
  • "I do believe a president is entitled to the team he wants to put together, unless they're completely off the mark, and so I'll give them a good read," Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told Axios contributor Glen Johnson on Tuesday.

Other senators disagree — because they want to challenge Biden's most controversial nominees.

  • Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said, "I don't really care" about the legal aspect," adding he cares more about "the problems" with Biden's pick for Defense secretary, retired General Lloyd Austin.
  • "My feeling is that when we have someone where you need to get something out, we need to have a hearing."

Timing: The Electoral College votes on Monday, but some lawmakers predict Trump's legal fight will continue.

  • The chatter comes as a growing number of House Republicans are backing an effort by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) to challenge Congress' election certification next month.
  • With the support of just a single senator — who Trump's fiercest House GOP allies are courting — Brooks could force the House and Senate to debate and vote on the challenge. That could drag out the typically ceremonial process of counting electoral college votes.
  • Johnson told Axios that while he met with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and a group of House members about this effort, he is still gathering information and hasn't committed to being that senator.

Go deeper

Senate Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In a closely divided Congress, the Senate’s Mischief Makers could thwart their leaders' best-laid plans with their own agendas.

Why it matters: On Wednesday night, we shared a list of House members who our leadership sources on the Hill consider some of the top troublemakers. But their Senate counterparts may be even more impactful in a 50-50 chamber, where Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tiebreaking vote.

The Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

Updated 10 mins ago - World

Russia announces end to massive troop buildup near Ukraine

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (L) with President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russia's defense minister said Thursday that massive military exercises near the border with Ukraine had been completed, and that he had ordered troops to return to their permanent bases by May 1, according to state media.

Why it matters: Tens of thousands of troops and heavy military equipment had been moved to the border of eastern Ukraine and the annexed territory of Crimea over the last month, sparking fears of a potential Russian invasion.

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