News & Politics

Senate Republicans Suspend Rules to Push Trump Nominees Through Without Democrats

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 31: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, talks with reporters in the subway before the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol, January 31, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Senate Republicans changed the rules to push through a pair of President Trump’s cabinet nominees on Wednesday after Democrats — for the second time — boycotted the votes in the Senate Finance Committee. Steven Mnuchin, President Trump’s pick to head the Treasury Department, and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the president’s choice for secretary of Health and Human Services, will now advance to the Senate floor, without any Democrats being present for the vote in the Finance Committee hearing room.

Via The Hill:

By unanimous consent, the Republicans gathered in the hearing room 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.”

Senate Dems had refused to attend the vote on the two highly qualified candidates, arguing that they needed to question them further regarding their alleged “misleading statements” on ethical issues.

Mnuchin has been pressed by Democrats about his time as the head of OneWest Bank and “whether it treated homeowners facing foreclosure fairly.”

Price was targeted for alleged conflicts of interest in his investment portfolio, charges that are entirely specious and political. More from The Hill:

“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 was dismissive of that argument 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.”

CBS reporter Steve Dorsey was gobsmacked by the Republicans’ maneuver. “This is strange, this is political drama unfolding on Capitol Hill right now,” he gasped.

In a statement this morning, Senator Wyden, the top Democrat on the committee, called the development “deeply troubling,” CNN reported.
“Today, for the first time in history, the Senate Finance Committee broke the rules to push through on a partisan basis two nominees,” Wyden said. “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.”

According to Republicans on the Hill, however, the committee allows for the “one minority party member must be present” rule to be suspended in the extraordinary case that obstruction — such as what Democrats had been doing — has occurred.

So Wyden either a) doesn’t know the committee’s rules, which makes him a very poor ranking member, or b) does know the rules but is being willfully obtuse and dishonest.

Hey, anyone remember when Obama-era Democrats branded Republicans “the party of no” for much less egregious tactics? It’s nice to see Republicans use hardball to deal with the Trump-era “party of no.”