Senate Democrats on Tuesday boycotted two committee votes to delay the confirmations of President Donald Trump’s picks to head the Health and Human Services and Treasury departments.
"We’re not going to this committee today because we want the committee to regroup, get the information, have these two nominees come back in front of the committee, clarify what they lied about — I would hope they would apologize for that — then give us the information that we all need for our states," Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told reporters.
The move is an effort to halt the confirmations of Rep. Tom Price as secretary of Health and Human Services and Steve Mnuchin as Treasury secretary after contentious confirmation hearings in which Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee accused both nominees of withholding important information.
While Democrats do not have the votes to defeat the nominations in the Republican-held Senate, a quorum of committee members must be present to hold a vote to advance the cabinet picks to a final confirmation vote.
A new date for the votes has not yet been set.
“These two nominees are going to go through regardless,” a frustrated Sen. Orrin Hatch, the GOP head of the committee, said as he sat down in a hearing room void of Democrats.
“They oughta be embarrassed. It’s the most pathetic treatment I’ve seen in my 40 years in the United States Senate...I think they ought to stop posturing and acting like idiots” he added.
Democrats said they want more information about Price’s investments in health care companies that they contend could pose ethical issues for the incoming head of HHS. Mnuchin was grilled earlier this month about his company’s role in the housing crisis in 2008.
Both nominees were accused of withholding information from the committee during the disclosure process. Price and Mnuchin said any missing information was unintentional and they worked to fill in any gaps.
The boycott came on a particularly busy day on Capitol Hill in which the Trump administration hoped to advance a number of cabinet nominations. The new administration continues to lament the pace at which Congress has confirmed the picks, but opposition from Democrats has only sharpened after Trump’s executive orders.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee used a hearing on the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general to blast Trump for removing the acting attorney general after she ordered the Justice Department not to defend Trump’s immigration order.
Education nominee Betsy DeVos was approved in a partisan committee vote, though two Republicans said they had not yet decided if they will support her in the final confirmation vote.