WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump's Cabinet continued to take shape, as United States Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas earned approval to lead the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Mr Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state nominee, cleared a key Senate hurdle to all but assure his own confirmation.
Mr Trump has thus far faced few meaningful obstacles in installing the team of his choice - aided by Senate Republicans eager to expedite the confirmation process.
Mr Tillerson had been the only nominee to attract notable doubts from within the Republican Senate majority, briefly imperilling his prospects amid concerns over his ties to Russia and its President, Mr Vladimir Putin, during Mr Tillerson's tenure at Exxon Mobil.
But on Monday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who had emerged as a critical vote on Mr Tillerson's fate, announced his support.
He had sharply questioned Mr Tillerson at a hearing this month, chastising him in a series of interrogations over his equivocating testimony on human rights issues. Several hours later, by a party-line vote of 11-10, Mr Tillerson won the committee's recommendation.
Mr Tillerson, 64, must still clear a full Senate vote to join the Trump administration.
Mr Trump's aides and Senate allies had hoped to win approval on several nominees on Inauguration Day, but only two national security posts - Mr James Mattis, the Defence Secretary, and Mr John Kelly, the Homeland Security Secretary - were filled.
On Monday, Mr Pompeo was confirmed as director of CIA by the Senate, putting the conservative Kansas congressman in charge of an agency that is bracing itself for its most contentious relationship with the White House in decades.
The vote was 66-32. Mr Pompeo was sworn in on Monday evening by Vice-President Mike Pence.
Mr Pompeo, 53, was a fierce critic of former president Bill Clinton, a determined opponent of the Obama administration's nuclear accord with Iran, and said he regarded the US government's conduct in the attacks on US compounds in Benghazi, Libya, a political scandal "worse in some ways" than Watergate.
Mr Trump has expressed confidence in Mr Pompeo, a businessman who served as a tank commander in the army and graduated at the top of his class at the US Military Academy at West Point.
While Democrats are powerless to stop any nominees on their own, they have sought to use the confirmation process as a showcase for what they call the extreme positions of the prospective Trump Cabinet and the ethical lapses that have dogged some of his selections.
"I know why our Republican colleagues want to rush these nominees through," said Senator Chuck Schumer of the Democrats and the Senate minority leader, who has taken to calling Mr Trump's team a "swamp Cabinet". "We are not stalling nominations," he added. "This isn't sport. This is serious stuff."
Several other Cabinet nominees are expected to be considered by other Senate committees this week, clearing the path for their confirmations.
They include: Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Mr Trump's choice for attorney-general; Dr Ben Carson, Mr Trump's pick to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development; Mr Wilbur Ross, the nominee for commerce secretary; and Ms Elaine Chao, the nominee for transportation secretary.
NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST