US Senate panel gives nod to Mnuchin, Price

A sheet to track votes during a meeting of the Senate finance committee to vote on Mr Price and Mr Mnuchin on Tuesday. Senate Democrats did not show up.
A sheet to track votes during a meeting of the Senate finance committee to vote on Mr Price and Mr Mnuchin on Tuesday. Senate Democrats did not show up.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A sheet to track votes during a meeting of the Senate finance committee to vote on Mr Price and Mr Mnuchin on Tuesday. Senate Democrats did not show up.
Mr Mnuchin
A sheet to track votes during a meeting of the Senate finance committee to vote on Mr Price and Mr Mnuchin on Tuesday. Senate Democrats did not show up.
Mr Price

Panel chairman takes emergency steps after Democrat boycott; nominees face Senate floor vote

WASHINGTON • Facing a boycott from Democrats, a Senate panel took what it called emergency steps yesterday to advance the nominations of Mr Steven Mnuchin to run the Treasury, and Mr Tom Price to head Health and Human Services.

Their nominations now face a floor vote of the Senate, which the ruling Republicans control.

The Senate Finance Committee moved to report both of them to the Senate floor on 14-0 votes, with only Republicans participating, after voting to suspend the panel's rules.

The unusual steps came one day after Democrats forced a delay on scheduled votes by boycotting the committee's meeting.

Chairman Orrin Hatch said on Tuesday that he was furious at the Democrats, and vowed to push the nominations forward.

He said yesterday that the emergency steps were the proper course of action.

Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown said Mr Mnuchin had "out-and-out lied to our committee" about the robotic signing of foreclosure documents by the bank, OneWest, when he was its chief executive.

Democrats also said Mr Price had misled the committee about his investment in a small Australian biotechnology company that could have benefited from legislation he promoted.

Democrats could attempt to challenge the committee's actions when Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell tries to bring them up for a floor vote, but they may not be able to block it.

Mr Hatch told reporters afterwards that he did not know when a floor vote would be scheduled for either nominee.

The Democrats said they had been misled by Mr Mnuchin and Mr Price, and wanted an opportunity to investigate unanswered questions about Mr Price's investments and Mr Mnuchin's role in a bank that had been criticised for aggressive foreclosure practices.

Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown said Mr Mnuchin had "out-and-out lied to our committee" about the robotic signing of foreclosure documents by the bank, OneWest, when he was its chief executive.

Democrats also said Mr Price had misled the committee about his investment in a small Australian biotechnology company that could have benefited from legislation he promoted. Mr Price bought discounted shares in the company through a private placement after learning about the company from another congressman.

Under finance committee rules, the panel needs a quorum, including at least one member of the minority party, to conduct business.

Democrats have no immediate prospect of stopping Mr Trump's nominees, but by dragging out the confirmation process, they said, they could slow down his ability to carry out policies that many Democrats adamantly oppose.

As Mr Trump's dramatic firing on Monday of acting attorney-general Sally Yates threw the capital into tumult, the Democrats also seized on the contentiousness to try to block Senator Jeff Sessions' nomination for the post. They said he was too close to Mr Trump to be independent. They forced a delay of at least a day for a judiciary committee vote on Mr Sessions.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the judiciary panel, said Ms Yates had shown "guts" in refusing to defend Mr Trump's executive order on immigration.

But other Trump nominees advanced on Tuesday. By a vote of 93-6, the Senate approved the nomination of Ms Elaine Chao to be Secretary of Transportation.

By a vote of 12-11, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labour and Pensions recommended confirmation of Mrs Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary. She is a Republican fund-raiser and donor.

Mr Trump's pick for Energy Secretary, former governor Rick Perry of Texas, won backing from the Senate committee on energy and natural resources, which voted 16-7 to recommend his confirmation.

And by a vote of 16-6, that committee approved Republican Representative Ryan Zinke to lead the Interior Department.

BLOOMBERG, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2017, with the headline 'US Senate panel gives nod to Mnuchin, Price'. Print Edition | Subscribe