Democrats boycott meeting to delay Trump nominee votes

Joshua Roberts—Reuters
FILE PHOTO: Steven Mnuchin testifies before a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be Treasury secretary in Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Democrats in the U.S. Senate chose to boycott the Senate Finance Committee meeting Tuesday in an effort to delay the confirmation of two of Pres. Donald Trump’s cabinet nominations. The rules of the confirmation process dictate that at least one Democrat must be present for the confirmations to proceed.The boycott means that U.S. Treasury nominee Steven Mnuchin and Tom Price’s nomination as secretary of Health and Human Services will not be confirmed Tuesday as planned. In what was called an “irregular” move, Senate Democrats delayed the confirmation yesterday too, rescheduling it so they could participate in a protest against President Donald Trump’s order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer organized the candlelight protest that took place on Monday evening.”This delay will allow members to protest the president’s unconstitutional ban on Muslims entering the United States while voting on Mr. Mnuchin’s nomination little more than 12 hours later,” said Rachel McCleery, a spokesperson for Senate Finance Committee Democrats.As it turned out the boycott meant it will likely be longer than the 12 hours promised. It also appears that the move bought more time to pressure some senators to reconsider their votes on Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive who later ran Southern California-based OneWest Bank.Senator Ron Wyden, the panel’s ranking Democrat, has sharply criticized Mnuchin’s handling of thousands of foreclosures by OneWest after he led a group of investors to buy failed mortgage lender IndyMac at the height of the recent financial crisis.Senator Mark Warner, another Democrat on the panel, on Monday announced he would vote against Mnuchin’s nomination.”Throughout the confirmation process, Mr. Mnuchin has failed to adequately demonstrate that he will be a forceful advocate for innovative policies that will make the U.S. economy work better for the majority of Americans,” Warner said in a statement.The pair’s objections wouldn’t have been enough to stop the confirmation with Republicans controlling a two-vote majority on the committee. Democrats would have had to persuade some Republicans to oppose Mnuchin to block his confirmation. Instead, they opted to boycott.Democrats said they were delaying the vote because they wanted more information on Price’s stock trades in an Australian medical company and reports that Mnuchin’s former bank, OneWest, used automated “robosignings” of foreclosures, which they say contradicted statements he made.