Advocates celebrated when Andrew Puzder, President Trump’s original nominee to be Secretary of Labor, withdrew his nomination on Feb. 15, just one day before he was scheduled to appear before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. It was reported that between four and 12 Republican senators had declined to openly support Puzder, throwing his confirmation in jeopardy. The National Employment Law Project, one of the groups that championed advocacy efforts to defeat Puzder’s confirmation, said in a statement that he was forced to withdraw “[t]hanks to fierce opposition from a diverse group of Americans, including people deeply concerned about the treatment of workers and of women.” The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) noted that Puzder “demonstrated nothing but contempt for everything the Labor Department stands for and everyone it exists to serve,” and said, “AFSCME members hope that the president will get it right the second time and choose a labor secretary who shares the basic values of working families.” CHN also opposed Puzder’s confirmation because of his violations of labor laws and his anti-worker policy positions. On Feb. 16, President Trump named Alexander Acosta as his new pick for Labor Secretary. Acosta is a former U.S Attorney, former assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and a former member of the National Labor Relations Board. Advocates will review his record in the coming days and weeks.
Despite efforts by advocates and most Senate Democrats, however, several of President Trump’s other cabinet nominees were confirmed by the Senate and sworn in in recent weeks. Many of these confirmations fell on party line or near-party line votes; only a simple majority of the Senate is needed to confirm nominees for administration positions.
Former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was confirmed by the Senate (52-47) as the new U.S. Attorney General on Feb. 8. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was the only Democrat to vote in favor of Sessions; Sessions refrained from voting. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) appointed Luther Strange, the state’s attorney general and a Republican, to fill Sessions’ Senate seat. Strange was sworn in on Feb. 9 and will serve until an election is held in 2018 to fill the seat for the remainder of Sessions’ term, which ends Jan. 2020. Strange is expected to run for the seat in 2018. CHN opposed Sessions’ confirmation.
Former Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) was confirmed (52-47 along party lines) as the new Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on Feb. 10. As such, he will play a key role in GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In his role as Chair of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Price proposed massive reductions to low-income programs. CHN’s letter to Congress opposing his nomination put it this way: “Millions of low- and moderate-income families, people with disabilities, children and seniors stand to lose services if the policies espoused by Rep. Price are implemented in the agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services. He has not proposed meaningful improvements, but instead called for slashing funding by one-third to more than one-half. He supports harsh constraints on the capacity of the federal government to respond when economic downturns or crises such as opioid epidemics increase the number of people who would qualify for services.” A special election will be held on April 18, with a runoff set for June 20, to fill Price’s House seat.
Steven Mnuchin was confirmed (53-47) as the new Treasury Secretary on Feb. 13. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was the only Democrat to vote for Mnuchin. Dubbed “Mr. Foreclosure,” Mnuchin will be responsible for administering loan modification and foreclosure prevention programs established following the 2008 crisis, among other responsibilities. He will also play a key role in Republican efforts to overhaul the tax code.
Betsy DeVos was confirmed (50-50, with Vice President Pence casting the tie-breaking vote) as Secretary of Education on Feb. 7. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) were the only Republicans to oppose DeVos. CHN opposed DeVos’ confirmation because of her commitment to direct resources away from low-income students and students with disabilities.
Former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) was confirmed (51-49) as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget on Feb. 16. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was the only Republican to oppose Mulvaney because of Mulvaney’s willingness to cut military spending. In addition to leading efforts to develop the Trump Administration’s federal budget requests and dealing with the need to raise the debt limit, Mulvaney will play a key role in repealing regulations implemented by the Obama Administration. A co-founder of the ultra-right-wing House Freedom Caucus, CHN opposed the confirmation of Mulvaney because of his support for budget proposals that make draconian cuts in human needs programs and his willingness to shut down government and stop government borrowing in order to force cuts.
For more information on President Trump’s cabinet nominees, including statements opposing many of the nominees from CHN members, see CHN’s page on the Trump Administration.