All the drama!
It’s a grand old time in the Senate today! I reported earlier that a few Senate Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee boycotted the vote to approve Rep. Tom Price as Human and Health Services (HHS) Secretary and Steven Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary. The drama did not end there.
The Democrats have dragged their feet on many of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees, but it appears Trump needs his attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, as soon as possible. He fired Sally Yates, who received the appointment of acting attorney general from President Barack Obama, after she told Justice Department lawyers not to comply with his immigration executive order.
But the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee cannot stop attacking Sessions long enough to hold a vote to move his confirmation to the Senate floor.
These Democrats decided to use “a procedural move to delay the committee vote until Wednesday.” Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) lashed out at the Democrats, telling them that Sessions knows the Justice Department “better than any nominee for attorney general” and that he will uphold the law.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the top Democrat on the panel, somehow tied Sessions to the immigration executive order that Trump passed this weekend that halted immigration from several countries until the government can implement a proper vetting process. From CNN:
“Not one order idea or pronouncement is meant to bring this country together; they only serve to drive us further apart,” Feinstein said. “It is in this context we are being asked to consider this nomination.”
Feinstein read from a Washington Post article that touted Sessions’ deep influence in Trump’s new administration — including highlights of the Alabama senator’s loyalists working on policy.
“How could we possibly conclude that this nominee is going to be independent?” Feinstein said.
Sessions has denied he was involved in drafting Trump’s travel ban. In written responses to the Judiciary Committee, he wrote: “Neither I, nor any of my current staff, had such a role.”
The Washington Post article noted that Trump’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller penned the majority of the executive orders. Sessions has mentored Miller, who became one of the senator’s confidants. So somehow this means that Sessions had a hand in the immigration order. The article also led people to believe Sessions contributed to the order because chief strategist Stephen Bannon has praised Sessions in the past.
The Senate confirmed Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for Transportation Secretary with a 93-6 vote. Chao became the first Asian-American woman to serve in a presidential cabinet when President George W. Bush chose her as Labor Secretary.
Chao also worked “as deputy secretary at the Transportation Department, chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, CEO of United Way of America and director of the Peace Corps.”
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved Betsy DeVos for education secretary, which means the final vote will go to the Senate floor. She only passed with a 12-11 vote, but she may not have an easy time climbing out of the full Senate.
Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine both voted for DeVos, but neither one knows for sure if they will vote for her on the floor:
“This nomination is very difficult for me,” Sen. Murkowski said Tuesday before the committee vote. She added that thousands of Alaskans have called her office with concerns about Ms. DeVos, including her commitment to ensuring quality public schools. “I would not advise that she yet count on my vote.”
Sen. Collins said she had concerns about Ms. DeVos’s grasp of federal education-related laws, including one that ensures school access for children with disabilities. The nominee, asked during her mid-January confirmation hearing whether schools should face requirements under that law, replied it was a matter best left to states.
“I will continue to evaluate this nomination before it comes to the floor for a vote,” Sen. Collins said.
That same Senate committee has postponed Andrew Puzder’s confirmation hearing a fourth time. Trump chose the fast food executive to serve as Labor Secretary. The committee will not set a new date until the members have received “key paperwork laying out Puzder’s financial disclosures and detailing his plan for avoiding future conflicts of interest.”
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved Rep. Ryan Zinke for Interior Secretary and former Texas Governor Rick Perry for Energy Secretary.DONATE
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