WASHINGTON — Nine of President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees will face tough questioning from Senate committees this week as Republican leaders begin their push to quickly confirm Trump's choices.
Trump predicted Monday that all of his nominees will be confirmed, and he is probably right. Republicans hold a 52-seat majority in the Senate, and they need only 50 senators to support a nominee since Vice President-elect Mike Pence will be able to cast a vote to break any tie.
History is also on Trump's side. Only nine Cabinet nominees have been rejected by the Senate since 1834, according to the Senate Historical Office.
However, the often-grueling hearings have led some nominees to withdraw from the process altogether. Since 1801, a dozen nominees have either withdrawn or were never voted on by the committees considering them, Senate historians said.
Here's a look at this week's rundown of confirmation hearings:
• Attorney general. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., will be interrogated by his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, where he has been serving as chairman of the immigration subcommittee. Look for Democrats to go after him hard on voting rights, gay rights and immigration enforcement and to bring up the fact that Sessions was rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986 over allegations of racism. Republicans will counter that criticism by portraying Sessions, a former federal prosecutor, as a man of integrity who has spent his career protecting the public from criminals and weeding out government corruption.
• Homeland Security secretary. Retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, the former commander of U.S. Southern Command, faces questions from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Expect senators to question him about his warnings that terrorists could link up with Latin American drug smugglers to threaten the United States by crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. He also is sure to be asked about Trump's controversial plan to build a border wall.
• Secretary of state. Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson could face opposition from some Republicans as he seeks to become the next secretary of State. GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida have all joined Democrats in expressing concern about Tillerson's close business ties to Russia. Rubio sits on the Foreign Relations Committee and is expected to pose some of the most pointed questions to Tillerson about his dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
• Transportation secretary. This hearing before the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee should be one of the least contentious — and not just because nominee Elaine Chao is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Chao is well-known and respected by members of both parties on Capitol Hill. She served as secretary of Labor for President George W. Bush and as deputy secretary of Transportation for President George H.W. Bush.
• CIA director. Look for nominee Mike Pompeo, a Republican congressman from Kansas and a former Army officer, to be challenged by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee for his strong support of government surveillance programs such as the discontinued mass collection of Americans' phone records and his praise for the CIA's former detention and interrogation program, which critics have denounced as torture.
• Education secretary. Nominee Betsy DeVos, a billionaire conservative activist from Michigan, is considered an unconventional choice for the job because she has no professional experience working in schools. Expect Democrats on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to question her qualifications and for Republicans to praise her success in expanding state voucher programs that allow parents to use public funds to send their children to private or religious schools.
• Defense secretary. Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis has been praised by Armed Services Chairman John McCain for his "clear understanding of the many challenges facing the Department of Defense, the U.S. military, and our national security." However, some Democrats on the panel oppose granting Mattis a waiver of the requirement that nominees leave active duty at least seven years before seeking the job. Mattis left the military four years ago. The requirement was designed to preserve civilian control of the military.
• Housing and urban development secretary. Nominee Ben Carson — the former Republican presidential candidate and retired brain surgeon — is nothing if not unpredictable, which could bring some excitement to what is otherwise expected to be a relatively low-key hearing. Before he was nominated by Trump, Carson put out the word through longtime adviser Armstrong Williams that he had taken himself out of the running for a Cabinet position because he had no government experience and lacked the background necessary to run a federal agency. Expect Democrats to use Carson's own words to question his qualifications.
• Commerce secretary. Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross has not generally drawn the same kind of fire from Democrats that many of Trump's other nominees have, in part because Democrats agree with his calls to create jobs by investing in public works projects and his opposition to controversial trade pacts also opposed by unions. But Commerce Committee Democrats are still expected to press Ross on his business dealings, including a 2006 explosion that killed 12 miners at a West Virginia mine owned by Ross' company.