CHN: Votes Begin on President Trump’s Cabinet Picks

Despite efforts by advocates and Senate Democrats, who asked for additional time to question nominees and boycotted votes, several of President Trump’s cabinet nominees moved forward in recent days.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination to be the next U.S. Attorney General in a party-line vote (11-9) on Feb. 1. Democrats used an arcane procedural move to block a planned vote on Sessions on Jan. 31, postponing it until Feb 1. His nomination now goes to the Senate floor, where he is widely expected to be confirmed. Once confirmed, Sessions (R-AL) will take over the Justice Department from current Acting Attorney General Dana Boente, who replaced Sally Yates after she was fired for saying the Justice Department would not defend President Trump’s executive order on immigration issued the previous weekend (see related article for more on this). CHN joined many advocacy groups in sending a letter to the heads of the Judiciary Committee opposing Sen. Session’s nomination.

Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, cleared the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on a party-line vote (12-11) on Jan. 31, and the full Senate voted along party lines (52-48) to advance her nomination on Feb. 3. A final vote on her confirmation is expected as early as Feb. 6 or 7. However, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME), both of whom voted for DeVos in committee, said they won’t vote to confirm DeVos on the Senate floor. This means that if all other senators vote along party lines, Vice President Mike Pence would need to vote to break the tie. If one other Republican senator votes no, her nomination would fail.

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), President Trump’s pick to head the Departments of Health and Human Services, and Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s pick to be Treasury Secretary, where both advanced with only Republican support by the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 1. Democrats on the committee boycotted votes on the nominations on Jan. 31, delaying the votes. The following day, Republicans suspended the committee rules, which normally require at least one Democrat be present for a vote, to allow them to vote without any Democrats. CHN supported the boycott by Senate Democrats and opposes both of these nominations.

Rep. Mick Mulvaneys nomination to be the director of the Office of Management and Budget was approved by two committees on Feb. 2. Both the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Budget Committee were expected to vote on Feb. 1, but the votes were delayed until Feb. 2. Both committees, which have joint jurisdiction over OMB nominees, approved Rep. Mulvaney (R-SC) along party lines. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who voted for Mulvaney in the Homeland Security Committee, has said he’s “leaning against” voting for Mulvaney on the Senate floor because of his willingness to cut military spending. CHN opposes the confirmation of Rep. 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.

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee voted in favor of moving forward the nomination of Dr. Ben Carson, President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, on Jan. 24. While expressing reservations, both Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (ME) and Sherrod Brown (OH) supported Dr. Carson’s nomination. The committee advanced his nomination in a simple voice vote without major opposition from Senate Democrats.

The confirmation hearing for Andrew Puzder, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, has been delayed for the fourth time, and a rescheduled date has not yet been announced, although it is rumored to be Feb. 14. CHN sent a letter to the Senate HELP Committee opposing Puzder’s nomination. Faced with the barrage of criticism from advocates, Puzder was reported by CNN to be having second thoughts, although he did later tweet that he is looking forward to his hearing.

All nominees to the cabinet can be confirmed by a simple majority of the Senate.

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. To see what to expect in policy changes from the Trump Administration and the new Congress in 2017, see our Washington 2017 resource webpage, and The New Congress: How it Plans to Cut…And How to Fight Back, a webinar originally held on December 16.

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