Senate Republicans have pushed through two of President Trump’s Cabinet nominees by upending standard committee rules to circumvent a Democratic boycott.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the nominees with only Republican members present. The nominees include Steven Mnuchin, who will head the Treasury Department, and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) who will take over as the secretary of Health and Human Services.
By unanimous consent, the Republicans gathered in the hearing room and unanimously agreed to change the committee’s standing rules, which normally require at least one member of each party to be in attendance for committee work to proceed.
“It’s just another way of roughing up the president’s nominees,” said committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
“They have been treated fairly. We have not been treated fairly.”
Democrats refused to attend a vote on the nominees for two days running while arguing the pair had made misleading statements to lawmakers that needed to be corrected before a vote was issued.
Both nominees are now headed to the Senate floor for a final vote.
Democrats opposed Mnuchin after he offered a poor answer regarding OneWest Bank, which he headed after the financial crisis. Democrats believe he failed to properly handle foreclosures for mortgages the bank owned and offered a poor answer for whether he was forthcoming about foreign entities he helped establish.
Price was questioned about his own personal investment activity. Democrats have questioned whether his political actions benefitted his personal portfolio.
“We made it clear yesterday that when we got answers to these questions, we’re ready to move ahead,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said after the GOP maneuver. “We’re going to keep pushing to get the facts.”
“Both nominees have yet to answer important questions that impact the American people,” committee Democrats wrote in a letter sent to Hatch Wednesday.
“Further, we have significant concern that both Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Price gave inaccurate and misleading testimony and responses to questions to the Committee. These cabinet nominees should answer basic questions that the American people deserve answers to before moving forward.”
Hatch dismissed those arguments on Wednesday. “Oh, come on. Come on,” he said. “They don’t have one argument that’s worthwhile. Not one. And if they had, they should have shown up.”
The Democratic blockage of GOP candidates followed a contentious year in which Republicans continually and without apology blocked President Obama’s selection for the Supreme Court.
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