The Senate on Thursday confirmed Robert Lighthizer to serve as the next U.S. trade representative, making him the final Cabinet-level nominee set to join the Trump administration.
The 82-14 confirmation vote included opposition from GOP Sens. Ben Sasse (Neb.) and John McCain (Ariz.), who jointly announced Wednesday that they didn’t support Lighthizer’s nomination because of concerns about how the administration will renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) was the only other Republican to vote against Lighthizer.
Democratic Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Al Franken (Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) supported Lighthizer, though he faced opposition from high-profile progressives such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) said Thursday that he voted against Lighthizer, in spite of their general agreement on trade issues, because he wants Senate Republicans to agree to meetings with Justice Department officials regarding President Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Thursday’s confirmation came after a months-long process that began on Jan. 3, when Trump announced his intent to nominate Lighthizer. The Senate Finance Committee didn’t hold a confirmation hearing for Lighthizer until March 14, long after the other Cabinet-level nominees.
The confirmation process was further delayed by Democrats’ insistence that Congress pass a statutory waiver that would exempt Lighthizer’s work as an attorney representing foreign governments in the United States. That waiver was included in the text of a government funding bill that was signed into law last week.