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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

Chuck Schumer is now majority leader as 3 new Democratic senators are sworn in

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is officially Senate majority leader after the inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris and the swearing-in of new Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).

Why it matters: With a 50-50 Senate, Schumer will control a narrow majority with Harris as the tie-breaking vote. Democratic control of the Senate is crucial to President Biden's agenda, from getting his coronavirus relief proposal passed to forgiving student debt.

Off the Rails

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Elijah Nouvelage, Alex Wong/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence. Trump believes the vice president can solve all his problems by simply refusing to certify the Electoral College results. It's a simple test of loyalty: Trump or the U.S. Constitution.

"The end is coming, Donald."

The male voice in the TV ad boomed through the White House residence during "Fox & Friends" commercial breaks. Over and over and over. "The end is coming, Donald. ... On Jan. 6, Mike Pence will put the nail in your political coffin."

Avril Haines confirmed as director of national intelligence

Haines. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Image

Avril Haines was quickly confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday as the director of national intelligence (DNI) in a vote of 84-10.

Why it matters: Haines is the first of President Biden's nominees to receive a full Senate confirmation and she will be the first woman to serve as DNI. She's previously served as CIA deputy director from 2013 to 2015 and deputy national security adviser from 2015 to 2017.

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