Senate confirms Lloyd Austin, first Black American, to lead Pentagon

Secretary of Defense nominee Lloyd Austin, a recently retired Army general, speaks during his conformation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill, Jan. 19, 2021.

The US Senate Friday confirmed the name of Retired Gen Lloyd Austin as President Biden’s defense secretary. And he has become the first Black American to lead Pentagon.

Biden is focusing on an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic, with plans for a speech from the White House and two new executive orders.

On Thursday, both chambers of Congress approved a legally required waiver that would allow Austin, former commander of US forces in the Middle East and South Asia, the US Central Command, to take the civilian post less than seven years after retiring from the military.

“Even as power changes hands from one administration to the other, the work of keeping our nation safe must not be paused or be disrupted,” new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told fellow lawmakers Thursday, urging them to move with haste on the nominations for the top posts at the departments of Homeland Security, State and Treasury.

“Foreign adversaries will seek to exploit this period of transition, and we cannot allow America’s military, intelligence and national security policy to be disrupted by staffing delays.”

Trump impeachment article

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will deliver an article of impeachment against former president Donald Trump on Monday, clearing the way for a Senate trial.

The House impeached Trump for “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the January 6 takeover of the Capitol by a violent mob.

Biden is expected to significantly increase federal food assistance for millions of hungry families, among executive actions intended to stabilize a deteriorating economy weighed down by the raging coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans pushed to delay the impeachment trial of Trump because he is struggling to recruit a legal team and assemble a defense against the accusation that he incited the deadly January 6 storming of the Capitol. Schumer and Pelosi made clear they are pressing ahead.

However, Biden signed an order mandating masks in airports and on many planes, trains, ships and intercity buses. His action follows an order — his first as president — requiring masks on federal property.


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