Democrats Continue Boycotting Cabinet Committee Hearings

February 1st 2017

Mike Rothschild

Embattled Democrats attempted Tuesday to stall the confirmation for two of President Donald Trump's cabinet nominees by refusing to attend the committee hearings needed to usher them in to full votes in the Senate.

That strategy continued Wednesday, as Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee refused to attend potential Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt's hearing.

The ten Democrats on the committee announced their concerns that Pruitt hadn't satisfactorily answered questions about issues related to his time as Oklahoma's attorney general. This move puts Pruitt in the same category as Department of Health and Human Services nominee Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Treasury Department nominee Steve Mnuchin, both of whom had their committee hearings boycotted, as well.

In the case of Pruitt, Republicans complained that no other EPA head had their nomination dragged out for longer than a few days - leaving out that in 2013, Republicans on the same committee boycotted the hearing of former President Barack Obama's pick to run the agency, Gina McCarthy. The confirmation process lasted over 130 days - a record for the position.

But Republicans on the Price and Mnuchin committees fought back - they changed the rules.

American flag

For the second day in a row, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee gathered without Democrats, unable to move forward without a quorum. But this time, the Committee's chair, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), declared that the Committee would vote to suspend its own rules and vote with or without Democrats - which it did, approving both nominations.

After the vote, Hatch claimed that the Senate Parliamentarian, who interprets the complex and arcane rules that govern the legislative body, approved the rule suspension.

Price and Mnuchin will now join attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, who was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, in having full confirmation votes in the Senate. All are expected to go down straight party lines.