WASHINGTON — Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has informed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that senate Democrats plan an all-out assault on Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and seven other Trump cabinet nominees in an attempt to block — or at least stall — them from being confirmed.
The Democrats’ plan, which the Washington Post called “an unprecedented break with Senate tradition,” threatens to derail the typically seamless transition of power in some of the government’s most important agencies.
In addition to Sessions, who was tapped to head the Justice Department, Democrats will target Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, HHS Secretary nominee Tom Price, Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder, Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin, Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, EPA administrator nominee Scott Pruitt and Office of Management and Budget nominee Mick Mulvaney.
Carl Cannon, the Washington Bureau Chief of Real Clear Politics, called Democrats efforts against Sessions “a case study in character assassination” and conservative columnist Erick Erickson called it a “desperate attempt to get a scalp.”
But Democrats argue they are simply seeking thorough public hearings.
“President-elect Trump is attempting to fill his rigged cabinet with nominees that would break key campaign promises and have made billions off the industries they’d be tasked with regulating,” Schumer said in a statement. “Any attempt by Republicans to have a series of rushed, truncated hearings before Inauguration Day and before the Congress and public have adequate information on all of them is something Democrats will vehemently resist. If Republicans think they can quickly jam through a whole slate of nominees without a fair hearing process, they’re sorely mistaken.”
Historically, the Senate has shown a great deal of deference to incoming presidents under the premise that they should be given the latitude to surround themselves with the people they want, within reason.
Schumer’s plan, which calls for multiple, lengthy hearings for each of the aforementioned eight nominees, would slow the confirmation process to a crawl. It would also directly contradict what took place after President Obama took office in 2009 when the Senate unanimously confirmed seven of his nominees on Inauguration Day and five more within the week.
“It’s curious that they’d object to treating the incoming president’s nominees with the same courtesy and seriousness with which the Senate acted on President Obama’s nominees,” said Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Sen. McConnell. “Our committees and chairmen are fully capable of reviewing the incoming Cabinet nominations with the same rules and procedures as the same committees did with President Obama’s nominations.”
Sessions’ confirmation hearings are first on the docket and scheduled to begin Jan. 10th.