Opposition to Biden Nominees in First Year

Today’s post is going to be of some really recent history, as this regards nominations by President Biden. When Josh Hawley of Missouri was one of only two senators to vote against Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense at the start of Biden’s presidency and then voted against Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation, I was wondering if this would be his thing now, being the senator who votes against all of his nominees as a talking point for the 2024 GOP presidential primary. I decided to explore my curiosity here by examining confirmation votes of 145 Biden nominees in 2021, and I discovered a greater picture than Hawley’s opposition.

Least to Most Supportive of Biden Nominees, Republicans…

Republicans: Hawley (4%), Tuberville, Scott of Florida, and Cruz (6%), Cotton (9%), Paul (10%), Shelby (11%), Braun (12%), Blackburn (13%), Lankford (14%), Marshall (15%), Boozman, Rubio, and Hagerty (16%), Lee (18%), Kennedy and Scott of South Carolina (20%), Daines, Sasse, and Lummis (21%), Barrasso (22%), Ernst, Cassidy, and Hoeven (24%), Inhofe and Johnson (25%), Risch and Thune (26%), Sullivan (27%), Crapo and Cramer (28%), Hyde-Smith (30%), Wicker (31%), Moran and Toomey (32%), McConnell and Fischer (35%), Young (37%), Tillis and Cornyn (42%), Blunt (45%), Grassley and Capito (48%), Burr (49%), Romney (50%), Rounds (51%), Portman (52%), Graham (68%), Murkowski (81%), and Collins (88%).


As I thought, the senator who has stood out most in opposition to President Biden’s nominees is Josh Hawley. While he didn’t vote against ALL of Biden’s nominees, he only voted for his nominees 4% of the time in 2021. Runner-ups are Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Rick Scott of Florida, and Ted Cruz of Texas at 6%. Hawley and Cruz are thought to have their eye on the presidency in the future, and their high levels of opposition seem geared at least in part at winning over Republican primary voters. The four men all voted to sustain the electoral count objection to Pennsylvania and with the exception of Scott voted to sustain the Arizona objection. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has voted 35% of the time for Biden’s nominees, and Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota has done so 26% of the time.

The Middle-of-the-Roaders and Supporters

Several Republicans with less partisan reputations voted over 40% of the time for Biden’s nominees. Fromer presidential candidate Mitt Romney of Utah, often reviled by conservatives as he often highlights his dissents with other Republicans for the press, voted for Biden’s nominees 50% of the time in 2021. This, however, is not the highest support level among Republicans. There are five who exceed Romney: Rounds of South Dakota (51%), Portman of Ohio (52%), Graham of South Carolina (68%), Murkowski of Alaska (81%) and Collins of Maine (88%). While support and opposition to nominees among Republicans certainly is correlated with ideological conservatism, it seems more a matter of how strong partisanship is among Republicans.


The reason I focus more on Republican opposition than what Democrats did is that what Democrats have done with nominees is pretty boring, but in this boredom lies a key point of interest. Namely, that there was almost no dissent, and the leading dissenter who wasn’t a Republican was none other than Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who voted for Biden’s nominees a mere 98% of the time!

Least to Most Supportive of Biden Nominees, Democrats…

All 100% except Markey, Warren, Menendez, Merkley, and Manchin (99%).

Independents (who caucus with the Democrats and are counted as Democrats in the chart):

Sanders (98%) and King (100%).

As you can see, no Democratic senator on more than one occasion voted against a Biden nominee in 2021. Interestingly enough, the people who opted to dissent once mostly came from the left pole of the party. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, while being reviled by many Democrats for some critical dissents (living wage, filibuster), voted for Biden nominees 100% of the time. While I could say that this is evidence of Democratic partisanship, I would be interested in investigating in a later post how Republicans and Democrats addressed Trump nominees in 2017 to compare to this post. I get the sense that there’s more unity generally in support of presidential nominees among the president’s party than there is opposition among the opposing party as a norm. Nominee support/opposition I think of as a measure of partisanship from the opposing party more than anything else.

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