Senate Democrats boycott cabinet nomination meetings for a second day

Senate Republicans suspend rules to send some nominees to full chamber for final vote

Joshua Roberts—Reuters
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate Democrats boycotted cabinet nomination meetings for a second day running on Wednesday, this time delaying a vote to send President Donald Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, to the full chamber for approval. During the meeting the panel was supposed to vote on Pruitt’s nomination, but Democrats said that Pruitt doubts the science of climate change and they would not participate. While they hold a minority on the committee, rules say at least one Democrat must be present to vote. Democrats used the same strategy on Tuesday, boycotting a vote to send nominations of banker Steven Mnuchin to head Treasury and U.S. Representative Tom Price for secretary of Health and Human Services to the full Senate chamber for a vote. “This is simply a senatorial temper tantrum,” said Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican.However on Wednesday, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee suspended committee rules and confirmed Price and Mnuchin on a straight party line vote, sending the nominations to the Senate floor. Committee leadership obtained approval from the Senate parliamentarian for the move suspending the rule.Republican members of the committee, who were all present, then approved the nominees 14-0. The nominees are considered likely to be confirmed by the Republican-majority Senate.”We took some unprecedented action today due to some unprecedented obstruction on the part of our colleagues,” said the panel’s chairman, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who was furious over the Democrats’ no-show. Democrats were also unhappy.”It’s deeply troubling to me that Republicans on the Finance Committee chose to break the rules in the face of strong evidence of two nominees’ serious ethical problems,” the Finance Committee’s top Democrat, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, said in a statement.Republicans accused the Democrats of deliberately stalling the functions of Trump’s new administration. “They (the Democrats) had tons of information (about Price and Mnuchin),” Hatch said. “It’s another way of roughing up the president and his choice of nominees.”But Democrats have come under pressure from liberal activists who want them to counter Trump at every turn, especially after his order last week blocking immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries. It sparked a wave of protests in major U.S. cities.One group that has been running television ads against Mnuchin blasted Republicans for the vote.”Steven Mnuchin is such an illegitimate, compromised nominee that Republicans had to change the rules to force through his nomination,” said Kait Sweeney, press secretary of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.The Wednesday meeting to send Pruitt’s nomination for EPA ended without any committee action. Pruitt is the Attorney General for Oklahoma and in that role has led 14 lawsuits against the EPA. His nomination is consistent with Trump’s position that the EPA produces unnecessary burdens in the development of energy and industry jobs.