Senate Republicans took an extraordinary step on Wednesday to move ahead with Mr. Trump’s two cabinet nominees despite a boycott from Democrats.
Republicans Senators in the Senate Finance Committee – the committee that is overseeing the nomination of Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price and Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin – gathered for the second consecutive day after confronting a boycott from Democrats yesterday.
The Republican lawmakers filled one-half of the dais, with the other side completely empty; an intensely partisan environment visual on Capitol Hill.
Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, and Committee Chairman pointed to the “extraordinary circumstances” of the meeting and allowed the Republicans to vote on suspension of committee rules.
He called the Democrats’ decision to boycott the meeting “the most pathetic thing,” and also added that an unprecedented step was taken because of the unprecedented obstruction on the part of the Democrats. He told reporters that “they [Dems] should be ashamed.”
The Democrats are trying to use a variety of Senate procedures to halt the newly empowered GOP; the most high-profile fight is going to be the confirmation of Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch, whose nomination would require 60 votes to break a filibuster.
Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee raised serious concerns over both Price and Mnuchin, claiming both the nominees made misrepresentations in their testimonies to the Senate.
The Democrats on the panel sent a letter to Mr. Hatch earlier on Wednesday requesting more financial information and past investments of both the nominees.
The committee rules required the presence of at least one Democrat in order to vote to send the nominee to the Senate floor. The nomination was put on a standstill when no Democrat showed up on Tuesday.
After the suspension of committee rules, the 14 Republicans present in the gathering voted to move the nominations of Price and Mnuchin to the full Senate, without a single vote from the opposite party.
Mr. Hatch said that the Democrats have nobody to blame but themselves as they refused to participate in the exercise on their own accord.
He stated that the move was a “just utilization of rules” and Senate Parliamentarian had approved of the procedural maneuver.
The 9:30 a.m call for the meeting was sudden, and Mr. Hatch said that he had not yet spoken to the top Democrat in the committee, Sen. Ron Wyden.
Among other things, Democrats asked clarity from Price on his “misleading and inaccurate” answers to questions regarding privileged and discounted access to stocks, whereas Mnuchin was asked to address the answers he provided to questions about the potentially illegal process known as robo-signing.”
Republicans are unlikely to cooperate now that the two nominations have been sent to the full Senate already.
Speaking of Democrats in the committee, Mr. Hatch said:
“I don’t feel a bit sorry for them. I don’t care what they want at this point.”