Democrats Can't Block President Trump's Cabinet - But They Can Do This

January 31st 2017

Mike Rothschild

In an unprecedented move, Senate Democrats have announced Tuesday that they will boycott committee votes on two of President Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees.

In order to progress to a full vote in the Senate, nominees first have to be confirmed by the relevant Senate committee. New revelations and outside events have pushed the Democrats who sit on the Finance Committee to no-show the vote for two Cabinet picks, the Department of Health and Human Services nominee Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Treasury Department nominee Steve Mnuchin. This means the Finance Committee won't have a quorum and can't move forward.

The boycott stems from new revelations related to four potential Cabinet members meant to receive either Committee or full Senate votes in the near future:

  • Attorney General nominee Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is being challenged over issues of his independence from the Trump administration, in the wake of Trump firing the acting Attorney General Sally Yates over her break with Trump regarding the immigration ban executive order.
  • Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education nominee, had an extremely contentious hearing, and is now facing accusations that she plagiarized answers to written questions submitted by Senators.
  • Department of Health and Human Services nominee Price is the subject of a Monday Wall Street Journal story that accuses him of getting a discounted deal on a biomedical stock, directly contradicting sworn testimony he gave during his hearing.
  • Banking executive Mnuchin is also under fire for new revelations that his mortgage lending company engaged in the predatory practice of "robo-signing" home loans, which he denied under Senate questioning.

While Mnuchin and Price's committee votes are being boycotted, Democrats are also jockeying to vote down Sessions and DeVos, who have already passed their committee votes. The Republicans hold a three vote majority in the Senate and Democrats can't block any nominations without Republican defectors, but the Democrat boycott can stall the process, leaving more time for new revelations to try to sway Republicans.

Republicans have expressed outrage over the boycotts. Finance Committee Chair, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called the action "pathetic," "embarrassing," "abysmal" and "amazingly stupid," while another Senator denied that they'd ever engaged in this type of obstruction against Democrats.

The nominations are held up for now, with Democrats demanding the nominees answer more questions.