Democrats Boycott Hearings for Two Cabinet Picks

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Lawmakers seek more information on Tom Price for HHS, Steven Mnuchin for Treasury.

Senate Democrats refused to attend planned committee votes for top Trump administration cabinet picks, a move that delayed the confirmation process for health and economy posts and added to growing partisan tension in Congress.

Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee said they wanted more information from President Donald Trump’s secretary picks of Steven Mnuchin for the Treasury Department and Rep. Tom Price for the Department of Health and Human Services. The vote on Mr. Mnuchin had already been rescheduled once. Committee rules require at least one member from each political party to be present to conduct business.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) criticized Democrats for delaying the confirmations.

“The only chaos we have in the Senate is because of Senate Democrats,” Mr. McConnell told reporters. “It is time to get over the fact that they lost the election. The president is entitled to have his cabinet appointments.”

Tuesday’s delay isn’t unprecedented. In 2013, all Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee didn’t attend a meeting to consider President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, forcing a delay. She was eventually confirmed.

In addition to slowing action on key Trump administration jobs, the move also throws a wrench—at least temporarily—into Republican efforts to speed up repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

The panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, said he was acting because of a Wall Street Journal article published Monday that said Mr. Price had participated in a private stock offering open to just six individuals, directly contradicting testimony he gave the committee in a hearing last week.

Republicans sharply objected to the delay from a half-empty committee room, calling it obstructionism. “I’ve been here a long time and I’ve never seen anything like this before…I’ve always shown up,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R., Utah). “I think it’s pathetic.”

Mr. Hatch later said Democrats didn’t let him know about their plan to skip the hearing, which forces the committee to reschedule votes. “I was led to believe they would show up and that we’d report these people out of the committee,” he said.

Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said Democrats couldn’t delay cabinet nominations and simultaneously “complain that the Trump administration can’t govern.” He also said the delay of other nominees, including Mr. Trump’s pick for attorney general, was risky for national security. “I hope in this vulnerable transition period that something doesn’t happen that my Democratic colleagues will regret,” he said.

While Democrats focused primarily on Mr. Price, other Democratic senators objected to written testimony Mr. Mnuchin had made after his confirmation hearing earlier in January regarding foreclosure practices at OneWest Bank, the lender he rehabilitated after purchasing the former IndyMac Bank from the government.

A spokesman for Mr. Mnuchin disputed claims that the written testimony wasn’t truthful.

The development on Messrs. Price and Mnuchin adds to a confirmation process that has already had repeated delays, some due to the complex financial disclosures of Mr. Trump’s nominees.

The timeline for confirming a Treasury secretary is the longest for a new administration since at least World War II, surpassing that of former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, whose 2009 confirmation was held up after disclosures revealed he had failed to pay payroll taxes.

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