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Republicans change rules, push ahead with Trump Cabinet picks in Senate

Published: Wednesday, February 01, 2017 @ 5:43 AM

Republicans pushed ahead with a series of President Trump's Cabinet choices on Wednesday, as a key panel approved the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for U.S. Attorney General, and Republicans changed the rules of one Senate committee in order to overcome delaying tactics by Democrats, moving two other major nominations to the Senate floor.

"We took some unprecedented actions today due to the unprecedented obstruction on the part of our colleagues," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, after Republicans changed the rules to allow a vote on two nominations without any Democrats on hand.

"This is just a Senatorial temper tantrum," Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) said of absent Democrats.

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"I think we have to be the adults in the room," said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-ND).

With Democrats boycotting the Finance Committee, that panel voted 14-0 to send the nominations of Steven Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary, and Tom Price for HHS Secretary to the Senate floor for a vote.

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee finished a second day of debate, and voted straight along party lines to approve the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as Attorney General in a Trump Administration.

Democrats were able to block action on one nomination, as they boycotted the work of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, preventing a vote on the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, for the job as head of the EPA.

Democrats had been asking for more time to ask questions of Treasury nominee Mnuchin, HHS nominee Price, and EPA nominee Pruitt, as they denounced the GOP confirmation push.

"Senate Republicans had to break the rules and force these two nominees through the committee for one reason: they have no answer for the lies and serious ethics problems of Tom Price and Steven Mnuchin," the Democratic National Committee said in a press release.

Republicans swatted those arguments away.

"They don't have one argument that is worthwhile," Hatch told reporters after the move.

"It’s time for the Democrats to stop their shameless grandstanding and let’s get leaders for our government in place quickly, as has been the practice with every President to date," said Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC).

"The Parliamentarian said this was the proper procedure," said Hatch, who labeled the Democratic boycotts a "cheap political ploy."

Meanwhile, President Trump signaled that he would be in favor of Republicans changing the rules of the Senate, in order to confirm his choice for the U.S. Supreme Court, federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch.

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