Senate Democrats delay committee votes on Sessions, Mnuchin, Price

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By Susan Cornwell and David Lawder | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. Senate Democrats on Tuesday
postponed votes on several of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet
nominees, citing their responsibility to do a “thorough
vetting,” while Republicans accused them of unreasonable delays
in considering the picks.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee exploited Senate
rules to delay until Wednesday a vote on Senator Jeff Sessions’
nomination to be attorney general. That job was in the spotlight
after Trump fired the acting attorney general on Monday over her
refusal to defend his executive order blocking nationals from
seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

Democrats also boycotted a meeting of the Senate Finance
Committee where votes had been scheduled on Steve Mnuchin to be
Treasury secretary and Tom Price to head the Health and Human
Services Department. Since at least one Democrat is required to
be present for the committee votes to take place, no votes were
held.

Despite the delays, all three nominees are considered likely
to be confirmed once their names are sent to the full
Republican-led Senate.

The White House, as well as Republicans on Capitol Hill,
accused Democrats of slow-walking the work of the government. “The people want change. President Trump is delivering that
change. And the only response from Senate Democrats so far is to
try to stall the core functions of our government,” said White
House press secretary Sean Spicer.

“When will the Democrats give us our Attorney General and
rest of Cabinet!” Trump said in a tweet. “No wonder D.C. doesn’t
work!”

Senate Democrats were unapologetic, with their leader, Chuck
Schumer, saying it was their obligation to “thoroughly vet”
Trump’s Cabinet nominees. “And if it takes a little longer, they
could be in office up to four years, and it makes eminent sense
to get their views out,” Schumer told reporters.

The Senate has already confirmed several of Trump’s picks
for national security posts, and the chamber voted 93-6 on
Tuesday to confirm Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell, as head of the U.S. Transportation Department
.

EXECUTIVE ORDER CONTROVERSY

Sessions’ closeness to Trump – he was the first senator to
endorse him during Trump’s presidential campaign – was clearly
working against him as far as Democrats were concerned following
several days of controversy over Trump’s executive order on
immigration.

“We saw last night that it is also the duty of our nation’s
chief law enforcement officer to support and defend the
Constitution when the president’s actions do not. The attorney
general swears an oath to the Constitution, not to a president,”
said Senator Dick Durbin, a member of the Judiciary Committee,
elaborating on his opposition to Sessions.

The Judiciary Committee rescheduled its vote on Sessions for
10:30 a.m (1530 GMT) on Wednesday.

Democrats on the Finance Committee said they were delaying
votes on Price and Mnuchin because they wanted more information
on Price’s stock trades in an Australian medical company and
reports that Mnuchin’s former bank, OneWest, used automated “robo-signings” of foreclosure documents, which apparently
contradicted statements the nominees had made to senators.

“We’ve made clear that we need additional information to
make these judgments,” said Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat
on the committee. It was unclear when the committee votes would
be held.

Republican Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Finance Committee,
called the Democratic boycott “shocking” and “offensive.”

“What’s the matter with the other party?” he asked. “Are
they that bitter about Donald Trump?”



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