The Democratic Party’s attempts to derail the confirmation process of President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees appear to be unsuccessful as GOP senators managed to pass two of his selections out of committee Wednesday morning.
In an unprecedented move, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch opted to suspend the rules requiring one Democrat to be present for the vote — effectively advancing Department of Health and Human Services nominee Rep. Tom Price of Georgia and Treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin out of committee by a 14-0 margin. The nominees will now head to the Senate floor for their final conformation votes, although a date has not yet been set.
Democrats blasted the decision, arguing Trump’s selections need further vetting before they can make a decision.
“It’s deeply troubling to me that Republicans on the Finance Committee chose to break the rules in the face of strong evidence of two nominees’ serious ethical problems.”Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden said in a statement. “Today, for the first time in history, the Senate Finance Committee broke the rules to push through on a partisan basis two nominees; one, Congressman Tom Price, whose stock trades call into question whether he will work in the public interest or his own, and the other, Steven Mnuchin, who appears to have misled the committee on his company’s foreclosure practices after the Great Recession.”
Hatch praised the two nominees, saying it was time for the upper chamber to act on confirmations so the administration can get to work on its policy agenda.
“We need decisive, solution-oriented leaders in the administration, particularly at Treasury and HHS. As Congress navigates the minefields of tax reform, healthcare reform, and other vitally important matters, we need willing and competent partners to lead these crucial Executive Branch departments,” he said in a statement following the 14-0 vote. “I believe these two nominees can and will provide the necessary leadership that will allow us to be successful in these many endeavors, and I look forward to their nominations being considered by the full Senate.”
Wyden said boycotts are not unusual during the confirmation process, adding he believes Republicans should have acted in accordance with the rules.
“Boycotts of committee meetings are not unheard of – my Republican colleagues, led by Chairman Hatch, took such a step just a few years ago,” Wyden continued. “The information Finance Democrats want about these controversial nominees is straightforward, and is the same as we’ve requested numerous times during the committee’s thorough vetting process.”
In addition to boycotting the Senate Finance Committee hearing, Democrats also attempted to stall the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works’ vote on Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
Alaska Sen. Dan Coats dubbed the boycott a “temper tantrum,” noting Democrats were “circling the halls” outside the committee room.
“This amounts to nothing more than political theater at the expense of working on issues that we care about.” Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming said during committee.
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