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Sen. Chuck Schumer’s Dems look to delay confirmations

United States Senator Charles E. Schumer answers questions

United States Senator Charles E. Schumer answers questions about a recent intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in the presidential election during a news conference at his Manhattan office on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016. Credit: Charles Eckert

Democrats led by the new Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer intend to delay confirmation for eight of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees with tough questions and demands for extensive personal financial data, a Senate aide confirmed Monday.

Schumer, the New York Democrat, told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that Democrats will seek delays in hearings until that information is turned over by those nominees, all of whom have views that sharply clash with Democratic policies.

Only two of Trump’s choices have filed public financial disclosure reports with the Office of Government Ethics, a requirement for all nominees that must be approved by the Senate, a review of the office’s website shows.

Democrats have little other recourse than seeking to impose information requirements on nominees to slow down the Republican agenda.

When they held the Senate majority in 2013, Democrats scrapped their most potent weapon – a filibuster against executive appointments requiring 60 votes for confirmation - in a battle with the then Republican minority’s block of President Barack Obama’s nominees.

Among Trump picks targeted by Democrats are ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, tapped for secretary of state; Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), chosen for attorney general; and Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), selected to run the Office of Management and Budget.

Also on the list are school-choice advocate Betsy DeVos, named as Education Department secretary; Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), picked to head the Department of Health and Human Services and oversee the Affordable Care Act, and restaurant executive Andrew Puzder for Labor secretary.

And Democrats will press former Goldman Sachs partner and financier Steve Mnuchin, chosen as Treasury secretary, and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, picked to lead the Environment Protection Agency, which he is currently suing over regulations.

“Any attempt by Republicans to have a series of rushed, truncated hearings before inauguration day and before the Congress and public have adequate information on all of them is something Democrats will vehemently resist,” Schumer said in a statement. “If Republicans think they can quickly jam through a whole slate of nominees without a fair hearing process, they’re sorely mistaken.”

Schumer also indicated he strongly disagrees with the policies of several nominees.

“President-elect Trump is attempting to fill his rigged cabinet with nominees that would break key campaign promises and have made billions off of the industries they’d be tasked with regulating,” Schumer said in his statement. It was first reported by the Washington Post Sunday.

Schumer press aide Matt House said in an email Monday that the Senate Democrats’ leader did not say he would oppose the eight targeted Trump nominees.

But after the Washington Post ran a story about the targeting of the eight nominees on Jan. 1, the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA tweeted “Senate Democrats begin the battle against 8 Trump nominees Time to get to work!”

Even in his own tweets, Schumer has indicated he likely won’t vote for at least three of the targeted nominees.

Schumer tweeted on Dec. 9 that “I oppose” Trump’s choice of Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency because of his ties to the gas and oil industry and his fight against federal regulations for clean water and air.

In a Dec. 21 tweet, Schumer called Mulvaney’s fiscal policies - including his push for cuts to Medicare and Social Security - “a deal breaker” for Trump’s selection for budget chief.

And on Dec. 28 Schumer tweeted that Price “shouldn’t be confirmed” to head the Department of Health and Human Services unless he radically changes his views and supports federal policy to require insurers to cover contraception – a highly unlikely prospect.

While some nominees have submitted their tax returns to the Senate as part of the process, Tillerson has said he will provide only tax information. That echoes Trump, who still has not made his tax returns public like every other president since Lyndon Johnson.

The Office of Government Ethics website shows that most of President Barack Obama’s nominees for his first term in 2009 filed ethics statements in the first two weeks of January.

Most of them were confirmed in January 2009, though some opposed by Republicans had to wait until February or March.

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