In an unexpected move on Tuesday, Senate Democrats announced they would boycott the votes of Steven Mnuchin and Tim Price, effectively blocking the confirmation process which requires the presence of at least one Democrat. However, on Wednesday, Senate Republicans found a loophole to push through Trump’s two Cabinet nominees Wednesday, by upending standard committee rules to circumvent a Democratic boycott.
As Bloomberg reports, the Senate Finance Committee - with only Republican members present - advanced Steven Mnuchin to head the Treasury Department, and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) as secretary of Health and Human Services. They did so when 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.”
Republicans made the unusual move after Democrats refused to attend a vote on the nominees for two days running, arguing the pair had made misleading statements to lawmakers that needed to be rectified. The nominees now head to the Senate floor, as partisan tensions over filling out Trump’s White House continued to intensify.
The reason for the Democrat boycott is that allegedly questions continue to swirl for weeks around Price’s investment activity, including whether his political actions benefitted his personal portfolio. “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."
Ultimately, The Senate Finance Committee moved to report both of President Donald Trump’s nominees to the Senate floor on 14-0 votes, with only Republicans participating, after voting to suspend the panel’s rules. “I don’t care what they do, but the parliamentarian said this is a proper decision.” Hatch told reporters after the votes.
The latest Democratic blockade was the latest example of the party’s efforts to slow the consideration of Trump’s nominees to a crawl, as the party and its base hardens in opposition to the new president; however, for now it appears to have its work cut out. That said, with animosity between the two parties already at nosebleed levels, it is unlikely that any laws demanding a bipartisan effort - such as the replacement of Obamacare - will be implemented.