WASHINGTON — In a rare display of bipartisanship, the Senate on Tuesday confirmed former wrestling entertainment executive Linda McMahon to lead the Small Business Administration as part of President Donald Trump’s cabinet.
The Senate voted 81-19 to confirm McMahon, who helped start and grow World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said McMahon will “prioritize growing jobs over growing government bureaucracy.”
“In so many states, including mine, that’s a welcome change from Washington,” McConnell said.
McMahon served as the chief executive officer at WWE before stepping down in 2009 to run for the Senate. She helped WWE grow from about a dozen employees into an enterprise with more than 800.
She lost races in 2010 and 2012, spending nearly $100 million of her own money on the campaigns, but both of her Democratic opponents from Connecticut — Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy — endorsed her nomination to lead the Small Business Administration.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said she has opposed several of Trump’s Cabinet nominees, but she supported McMahon because she understands the agency plays a vital role in the economy through loans, disaster assistance and educational services. She said McMahon also assured her that it was important to keep the SBA as a separate agency rather than merge it with the Commerce Department, a concept she had once endorsed when running for the Senate.
The Senate has been split mostly along party lines on most of Trump’s Cabinet choices. But McMahon breezed through her confirmation hearing, and a Senate panel moved her nomination to the full Senate with a vote of 18-1.
Leading up to the vote for McMahon, the Senate on Monday narrowly approved Steven Mnuchin to serve as the next secretary of the Treasury Department despite strong Democratic objections over a banker they dubbed the “foreclosure king.” Later Monday, the Senate also approved David Shulkin to serve as the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The McMahon confirmation likely represents a lull before more hotly contested confirmation battles ensue, most notably that of Andrew Puzder to serve as the next labor secretary. Four Republicans on the Senate panel considering his nomination aren’t saying publicly whether they will vote for him.
The SBA is best known for the small business loans it makes and the disaster aid it provides to companies and entrepreneurs. The agency is also tasked with monitoring government officials’ compliance with contract laws. Its budget is generally under $1 billion.