Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump’s nominations for the Secretary of Treasury (Steve Mnuchin) and Secretary of Health and Human Services (Tom Price) moved out of the Senate Finance Committee without a single vote or shred of participation from Democratic senators.
The move, supported by Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), comes just one day after Democrats on the Finance Committee boycotted votes to advance Trump’s nominations Mnuchin and Price. That boycott arose after new questions emerged about Price purchasing biomedical company stock at a discount (according to The Wall Street Journal) and as Mnuchin continues to face scrutiny about the role that he played in the foreclosure crisis while he was head of OneWest Bank.
Democrats, who are facing renewed pressure from constituents after Trump’s immigration order, insist that their boycott isn’t about obstructionism but about legitimate questions surrounding Mnuchin and Price. In a tweet, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) summed up the party’s position as such: “Where are @SenateFinance Dems this morning? Standing with the ppl of OH and others hurt by the abusive practices of Mnuchin’s bank.”
Still, Chairman Hatch has defended the move by saying that Senate Dems “didn’t even have the courtesy to tell me they weren’t going to show up yesterday and were holding press conferences out there without even talking to me.” Hatch says the boycott confirms that Dems aren’t acting in good faith and that there isn’t anything substantively wrong with either Mnuchin or Price.
The loggerheads that Senate Democrats and Republicans are at could worsen, as Rex Tillerson’s final floor vote comes up today. Also, nominations for Betsy Devos (Secretary of Education), Rick Perry (Secretary of Energy) and Ryan Zinke (Interior Secretary) cleared committee without much of a problem, but will likely face stricter scrutiny as they head to the full floor.
And looming over everything is the fresh specter of Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nomination for Supreme Court justice. Democrats are currently debating whether to stonewall the choice, a conversation that has become the norm in the early days of the Trump administration.