Empty seats of Dems on Senate Finance Committee didn’t stop RPBs from breaking a long-standing practice — taking a vote ONLY if at least one minority member was present. Stunning move makes clear they will use their razor-thin majority to muscle through the Trump / mainstream RPB agenda, regardless of Dem objections
“Senate Republicans used the muscle of their majority on Wednesday
to push forward some of President Trump’s most controversial cabinet nominees,
using arcane procedural maneuvers and party-line votes to overcome what they called stall tactics by Democrats.
The moves show the fierceness of the resistance to Trump among Democrats in Congress —
but also the difficulty they will face going forward in trying to slow the Republican legislative agenda.
For the second time this week, Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee boycotted a hearing
on the nominations of Representative Tom Price and Steven T. Mnuchin,
Trump’s picks to lead Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury.
But Republicans on the committee broke with the long-standing practice that
a member of the minority party be present for any formal committee action,
and held a vote Wednesday WITHOUT their Democratic colleagues.
They voted unanimously to move the nominations forward …
Democrats on the committee say new information that emerged over the weekend suggests that
Price and Mnuchin may not have been truthful in their confirmation hearing testimony,
and they say need more questions answered.
Now that the Republicans have voted without them, they are left with few options …
Republicans also took a step toward the confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s choice for attorney general.
A divided Senate Judiciary Committee approved his nomination on Wednesday, despite fierce pushback from Democrats
prompted by the president’s dramatic firing of the Justice Department’s acting chief in a clash over the administration’s refugee policy.
The committee approved Sessions on a straight party-line vote,
with 11 Republicans supporting their former colleague from Alabama and nine Democrats opposing him.
The Republican-controlled Senate now appears ready to approve his nomination next week …
The judiciary committee vote came two days after Trump ousted
the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration,
over her refusal to defend the president’s order on refugees against legal challenges.
Yates said the order’s legality was unclear;
the White House accused her of having “betrayed” her department.
Democrats zeroed in on the Yates’ firing and said that Sessions,
an early supporter of Trump’s long-shot campaign who went on to become an influential adviser,
would not have the independence to challenge the White House on questions of the law and policy …
Despite the progress with the Sessions nomination, delays remain on other fronts.
Republicans are still grappling with Democrats over
Scott Pruitt, Trump’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and
Representative Mick Mulvaney, his pick for White House budget director.
On Wednesday, Democrats boycotted Pruitt’s scheduled confirmation vote by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee,
saying he had failed to adequately answer their questions and address concerns about
how he would run the agency charged with protecting the nation’s air, water and health.
Senator John Barasso of Wyoming, the Republican chairman of the committee, dismissed the boycott as a stunt.
Looking at the Democrats’ empty seats, he said that it was
“a disappointing turn of events,” and that his colleagues were engaging in “political theater.”
“I hope this is not the new normal,” he said.
“We cannot afford for the E.P.A. to go without an administrator for the foreseeable future.”… “
[ And yet, Barasso and the rest of the Senate RPBs seemed to have no concern about an empty Supreme Court chair for almost a year now … ]
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget will also be without a leader for a while longer,
as Democrats on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee managed to slow down a vote on Mulvaney
over a delay in receiving his F.B.I. background check.
Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, said that while the full report was available on Tuesday,
she had not had an opportunity to read it before the Wednesday hearing.
She insisted that the committee convene again for a vote.
While Republicans have used similar delay tactics when they were not in power,
many are arguing that Democrats should move on and let Trump assemble his government.
[ And yet these same RPBs had no qualms at all about obstructing Obama —
whose policies were much more “moderate” than anything coming from either Trump or the mainstream RPBs on Capitol Hill —
in anything he wanted to do, or refusing to consider judicial and other appointments he wanted to make … ]
“I understand they’re upset, I understand they are in a state of shock,”
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, said of his Democratic colleagues.
“To do some of this sort of childish stuff is going to make their comeback harder.
If they can have a comeback.””
[ And this highlights the dilemma for Dems and other liberals who are looking for signs of “moderation” from mainstream RPBs.
Lindsey Graham is one of two Senate RPBs — the other being John McCain —
who have made clear their opposition to much of what Trump is doing,
albeit almost exclusively in the area of foreign policy.
Yet when it comes to ratifying his viciously right-wing nominees for Cabinet positions,
neither Graham nor McCain, nor “profile in courage” Marco Rubio,
have done ANYTHING to stop Trump from getting whom he wants.
Given the essential collaboration of “moderate” RPBs with Trump on personnel,
it’s self-delusion for Democrats and others to think
there’s a prayer there will ever be any effective resistance to the president coming anywhere from Capitol Hill … ]