Washington (AFP) – US Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked committee votes on two of Donald Trump’s nominations for key posts, heightening tensions over the new president’s cabinet picks as he blasts the opposition party for obstruction.
“Today Senate Finance Democrats refused to move forward with nominations of Mnuchin & Price,” Senator Ron Wyden, top Democrat on the finance committee, said on Twitter, referring to Treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin and Tom Price, Trump’s pick for health secretary.
Democrats, alarmed by what they see as extreme picks for a raft of key posts and angered by Trump’s aggressive first week in office, appear to have dug in their heels.
“The litany of ethics revelations regarding Tom Price are strong evidence that he cannot be allowed to have control of Medicare,” Wyden said.
He was referring to contentious accusations by Democrats that Price invested in a medical company that would have benefited from legislation that Price, a congressman from Georgia, co-sponsored.
“Mr. Mnuchin continued to fail to come clean on shady foreclosure practices that hurt Americans,” Wyden added.
Mnuchin, a Wall Street banker and Hollywood financier, was accused during his confirmation hearing of failing to disclose offshore holdings, and grilled over the home mortgage foreclosure practices of a bank he owned.
Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch was visibly furious as he sat in a hearing with no Democrats.
“It’s a sad time when this bipartisan committee has become a prop in a partisan sideshow,” he fumed.
“I think they ought to stop posturing and acting like idiots.”
Senate rules require at least one lawmaker from the opposition party to be present for votes to be held.
Democrats told Hatch they wanted more time to demand new information from the nominees.
“I do not want to hear from any of them about ‘doing our jobs,’” Hatch said. “We’re here. They are not.”
Trump has repeatedly assailed Democrats for slow-walking nominations for political reasons.
“When will the Democrats give us our attorney general and rest of Cabinet! They should be ashamed of themselves!” Trump tweeted early Tuesday.
The Senate was holding a flurry of votes Tuesday, including a confirmation vote on the Senate floor for Elaine Chao as secretary of transportation.
Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions was to get his vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, after Democrats on the panel delayed the vote by a week.
Also receiving votes before relevant Senate panels are nominees for energy secretary, Rick Perry; interior secretary, Ryan Zinke; and education secretary, Betsy DeVos.
Senate Democrats Obstruct President Trump’s Nominees
SENATE DEMOCRATS OBSTRUCT PRESIDENT TRUMP’S NOMINEES TO LEAD MAJOR DEPARTMENTS, AGENCIES
- 17: President Trump’s nominees to head major departments or agencies waiting to be confirmed.
- 7: President Obama’s nominees to head major departments or agencies waiting to be confirmed 11 days into his presidency.
- 4 President Bush’s nominees to head major departments or agencies waiting to be confirmed 11 days into his presidency.
President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday evening after she refused to defend his executive orders on immigration in court. She could have resigned in protest, but chose defiance and martyrdom.
The problem goes much further than one official. Trump’s opponents are burrowed throughout the federal bureaucracy, and at senior as well as junior levels.
Contrary to what some conservatives may suspect, they are not the majority of government employees. Most are loyal to the Constitution and to their duties. But there are enough die-hard Barack Obama appointees, and lifelong leftists, to frustrate the Trump administration — and they may be encouraging each other to do so.
The press is certainly encouraging them to “resist.” Some journalists are conflating Yates’s firing with the “Saturday Night Massacre,” Nixon’s firing of key Department of Justice staff to thwart the Watergate investigation. That was a classic abuse of presidential power. The Yates episode is the opposite — an illegitimate abuse of power by bureaucrats to undermine the president.
Also encouraging the rebellion: President Barack Obama, who reverted to 1980s community organizer mode in releasing a statement — merely 10 days after leaving office — criticizing the Trump administration, mis-stating the basis of the executive orders, and encouraging the protests at the nation’s airports, which had done more to disrupt travel than anything Trump signed in the White House. Obama is urging the country to become ungovernable — and his appointees may be listening.
Monday’s events make clear exactly why the Trump administration kept its executive order quiet, declining to share it in advance with the agencies that would be tasked with its implementation. The White House knows that it cannot trust large parts of the federal bureaucracy. Hence last week’s firings of senior managers at the State Department — falsely described, initially, as resignations.
It is not good for a White House to be so insular — but it has no choice, at least for the time being.
In that sense, Yates’s firing is an important signal to the rest of the bureaucracy. And to President Trump’s supporters, it is something to cheer — the first of many such dismissals as the administration rids itself of ideological careerists and superfluous Beltway barnacles. But while the confrontation may escalate, it cannot and should not last forever.
The “coup of the bureaucrats” must end; the bureaucracy must surrender.
There is a place for criticizing the president — namely, outside of the government. There are places for challenging Trump’s authority — namely, the opposition benches, the courts, and ultimately the ballot box.
Those who abuse the power of the bureaucracy to defy the electorate, and the Constitution, may think themselves heroes, but they are destroying the foundations of liberal democracy. They must go.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.