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Senate Confirmation Hearings

On another front, the Senate will likely hold confirmation hearings and votes on the president's new Cabinet picks, which he made with great fanfare before Christmas. While his choices have generally won praise, they're not a done deal and Senate Republicans may try to use the hearings as opportunities to score rhetorical points on policy as well as political matters.

Most of the focus is on the national security team, including Secretary of State nominee Madeleine Albright; Secretary of Defense nominee William Cohen; CIA director nominee Anthony Lake; and U.N. ambassador nominee Bill Richardson.

An important sign of approval came from Senate Foreign Relations chairman Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), a frequent and pointed critic of the administration's foreign policy, who told reporters that Albright is "a tough and courageous lady...My feeling is that the president could not have selected a secretary of state to succeed the distinguished Warren Christopher who would be more diligent in recognizing that ours is a tripartite government with three equal branches." In an equally positive sign for the other nominees, Helms added that he looked forward to working with Cohen and Lake as well.

The one nominee who could face a tough time, though, is Lake. Critics in the Senate have questioned his role in arms shipments from Iran to Bosnian Muslims in 1994 despite a U.N. arms embargo, and whether the former national security advisor can make the switch from partisan policy maker for Clinton to objective intelligence analyst.

He also has drawn criticism for his delayed sale of energy stocks after the White House counsel's office instructed him to get rid of them in 1993. Lake did not do so until July 1995 and the delay allowed him to net an additional $24,000. (According to the White House, Lake told his accountant to sell the stocks, and thought they had been sold.)

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