Confirmation Completes National Security Team

William Burns, a longtime diplomat, clears Senate on a voice vote
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2021 6:40 PM CDT
Senate Confirms Diplomat for CIA
William Burns testifies last month at his confirmation hearing.   (Tom Williams/Pool via AP)

The Senate approved William Burns as the next CIA director on Thursday, the final nominee for President Biden's national security team. Burns spent more than three decades as a diplomat and served as deputy secretary of state under President Obama. He'll be the first head of the CIA whose government resume includes only the State Department, CNN reports. There was no objection to Burns' nomination in the Senate, though Sen. Ted Cruz had held it up to pressure the administration on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, per CBS. The project would enable Russia to ship gas directly to Germany, leaving out Ukraine—an ally of the US. Once Cruz lifted his hold on the nomination, which he said he was doing because of new comments about the project by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Burns' nomination was approved on a voice vote.

For Biden, Burns' diplomatic experience and Russia expertise were selling points, aides said, in a time of US-Russia tension. Burns was once ambassador to Russia, per the Washington Post. The president doesn't want intelligence to become political, Burns said during his confirmation hearing. "It was the first thing he told me when he asked me to take on this role," Burns said. "He said he wants the agency to give it to him straight—and I pledged to do just that, and to defend those who do the same." Burns had told senators his priorities as director would include dealing with challenges from China, increasing the role of technology at the agency, boosting its workforce, and building partnerships with other intelligence agencies, at home and abroad. Deputy Director David Cohen has led the CIA since Gina Haspel retired this year. (More William Burns stories.)

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