Despite recent attempts by Senate Democrats to block the confirmations of President Donald Trump’s cabinet appointees, the predominately Republican Senate continues to incessantly fast track Trump’s controversial picks, including Sen. Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General, Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, and Steve Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary. Although Senate Republicans have unified in voting to confirm most of Trump’s nominees, at least two Republican Senators have announced that they will vote against Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary.
On Tuesday, Democrats blocked a vote in order to delay the Senate Judiciary Committee from approving the nomination of Sessions for Attorney General, while Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee boycotted votes that would progress the nominations of Rep. Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services and Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary.
The next morning, Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch suddenly assembled the committee and voted to suspend the rules requiring both major parties to be present when voting on Trump’s nominees. With the Democrats absent, the committee approved the nominations of Price and Mnuchin, who will both likely be confirmed by the Republican-majority Senate.
Democrats had boycotted the votes after raising concerns about whether Price properly disclosed information regarding his stock trades in an Australian biomedical company, while Mnuchin falsely claimed that OneWest Bank never used “robo-signings” on foreclosure documents. Shortly after their approvals, Sen. Elizabeth Warren took to Twitter and wrote, “@HHSGov nom Price lied to the Senate about a sweetheart stock deal. @USTreasury nom Mnuchin lied about his bank’s illegal foreclosures.”
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination of Sessions for Attorney General, while Senate Democrats succeeded in delaying the vote for Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. While receiving massive political contributions from the fossil fuel industry, Pruitt joined a coalition of other pliable state attorneys general in suing the EPA for attempting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector and methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.
On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for Transportation Secretary. The next day, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson was confirmed as Secretary of State despite his dubious financial ties to Russia and repeated denial of climate change.
Shortly before Tillerson’s confirmation, Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote on Twitter, “The nomination of Mr. Tillerson is one of the worst choices President Trump has made for his cabinet (and he’s made a lot of bad choices).”
In a 56-43 vote, Tillerson received every Republican vote, including votes from Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, Mark Warner, and Independent Sen. Angus King. Democratic Sen. Chris Coons did not vote.
On Wednesday, Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski announced that they will be voting against Betsy DeVos’ nomination for Secretary of Education. If the Senate confirms Sessions as Attorney General before the vote to confirm DeVos, then the Republicans could lose another vote due to the fact that Sessions would be ineligible.
Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch will require 60 votes from the Senate to confirm his seat.