Senate GOP suspends rules, advances Trump picks without Democrats

Republican-only votes advance Tom Price for HHS, Steven Mnuchin for Treasury

Health and Human Services Secretary-designate, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., right, accompanied by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., pauses while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Health and Human Services Secretary-designate, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., right, accompanied by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., pauses while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) more >
– The Washington Times – Updated: 10:14 a.m. on Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Republicans who lead a key Senate panel suspended their own rules Wednesday and advanced President Trump’s picks to lead the Treasury and Health and Human Services departments unilaterally, saying they had no choice after Democrats boycotted committee votes for a second day in a row.

The Senate Finance Committee advanced Steven Mnuchin to lead Treasury and Rep. Tom Price as health secretary on Republican votes along, clearing the way for a confirmation vote before the full chamber. Both nominees made it out of committee on 14-0 votes.

The votes were supposed to occur on Tuesday. Yet Democrats derailed the markup by refusing to show up, which meant the panel didn’t have the quorum needed to do business. At least one Democrat must be present.

They failed to show for the rescheduled markup early Wednesday, leading to the rule change.

“They have nobody to blame but themselves,” Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, said.

Democrats said Mr. Price, Georgia Republican, wasn’t straight with them about his ability to secure stock in an Australian medical company at a discounted price for select investors, even as he served as a leading health policy guru in Congress.

The panel’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, also said he couldn’t support Mr. Mnuchin because the nominee publicly denied that OneWest Bank engaged in the “robo-signing” of foreclosure documents under his leadership. Mr. Wyden said court documents and testimony seemed to show otherwise.

“Despite repeated requests by members of this Committee, both nominees have yet to answer important questions that impact the American people,” panel Democrats wrote in the letter to Mr. Hatch. “Further, we have significant concern that both Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Price gave inaccurate and misleading testimony and responses to questions to the Committee. These cabinet nominees should answer basic questions that the American people deserve answers to before moving forward.”

Mr. Hatch chastised Democrats, calling the claims about Mr. Price “misleading and dramatically overstated” — the nominee had said he was part of a select group of investors — and that there is no working definition of “robo-signing.”

“It is a vague label casually thrown around to apply to a broad set of practices,” Mr. Hatch said.

Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

 

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