Senate Confirms Avril Haines as First Female Director of National Intelligence

President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national intelligence director Avril Haines speaks during a confirmation hearing before the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday, in Washington. (Joe Raedle/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CN) — The U.S. Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s pick for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, in an 84-10 vote on Wednesday evening.

Hours after Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, the Democrat-led Senate installed his first Cabinet nominee, Haines, who will be the first woman to lead the intelligence community. 

The former Obama-era deputy CIA director replaces John Ratcliffe — a stalwart Trump ally and former congressman who previously served on the House Intelligence Committee.

Haines also served as the deputy national security advisor in the Obama administration. 

During a confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday morning, Haines had vowed to leave partisanship out of her new role. 

“When it comes to intelligence,” Haines said in an opening statement, “there is simply no place for politics, ever.”

“To be effective, the DNI must never shy away from speaking truth to power,” she said, “Especially when doing so may be inconvenient or difficult.”

As an incoming leader of U.S. spy agencies, Haines said during the hearing that the U.S. should cooperate with China on issues like climate change, but promised an “aggressive response” to China’s “illegal and unfair practices.”

Outlining her priorities, she told the committee on Tuesday that the DNI will focus on bolstering cyber security, responding to China and proactively preparing the country for the next pandemic. 

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas had objected to Haines’ confirmation until she clarified a response she had given on Tuesday about the CIA’s interrogation program during the George W. Bush administration.

Sen. Cotton stepped aside later on Wednesday to let the vote go forward. 

In recent history, the Senate has held the practice of installing new Cabinet members on day one of a presidency. 

Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Donald Trump all saw multiple picks confirmed on the day of their inaugurations.

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