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GOP Advances Mnuchin and Price Despite Dem Boycott

by Andrew Rafferty /  / Updated 
Empty Democrat seats at the Senate Finance Committee vote on the nominations of Tom Price and Steve Mnuchin, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 1, 2017. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

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Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee suspended committee rules to advance two of President Donald Trump's cabinet picks after Democrats boycotted the nomination votes for the second straight day.

In a unanimous 14 to zero vote on Wednesday, the GOP senators advanced Rep. Tom Price, nominated to lead Health and Human Services, and Steve Mnuchin, nominated to lead the Treasury, to the full Senate for a final confirmation vote.

Democrats attempted to delay the votes by boycotting the hearings, which required Democrats to be present for a quorum. But on the second straight day of boycotting, Republicans used a parliamentary procedure to hold a vote while no Democrats were present.

 Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) and Steven Mnuchin. Reuters

"We took some unprecedented actions today due to the unprecedented obstruction on the part of our colleagues," Sen. Orrin Hatch, the chair of the committee, said in his opening remarks.

Democrats have objected to the votes, saying both nominees have failed to provide complete information to the committee.

“Despite repeated requests by members of this committee, both nominees have yet to answer important questions that impact the American people,” Democrats wrote in a letter to Hatch.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, the committee’s ranking member, accused Republicans of “breaking the rules” by holding the vote with only one party present.

"I don't know all the details of what just transpired, but it seems to me the basic proposition of breaking the rule so that you can in effect look the other way in the face of strong evidence of serious ethical problems for two nominees is exceptionally troubling," Wyden said.

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Wyden and his Democratic colleagues have requested 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.

An outraged Hatch said his Democratic colleagues chose to “cower in the hallway” and hold a press conference instead of voting on the nominees.

Democrats on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Work also boycotted a hearing to vote on Environmental Protection Agency nominee Scott Pruitt, saying he has not responded to inquiries since his confirmation hearing last month.

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