By: Jack Vaughan
Even before Donald Trump took office, Democrats in the Senate planned to delay the confirmation process of the President’s cabinet nominees. Some of Trump’s picks were declared unfit for their positions. Attorney General nominee Senator Jeff Sessions’ committee hearings were delayed and extended due to allegations of racism during his time as an attorney in Alabama. That position is in the spotlight following the firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she refused to enforce Trump’s executive order banning nationals of seven Middle-Eastern countries.
Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin faced questions regarding his actions as a banker during the financial crisis of 2008. Democrats in their respective committees refused to attend or pushed to postpone their votes for days. Senate Democrats have postponed nominees at historic records; Trump’s first week in office saw four nominees confirmed, compared to Obama’s 13 in the first week.
Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee fought to stall confirmation of Mnuchin by refusing to attend scheduled meetings on January 31. Republican committee leaders preceded to change the rules to push their nominees to a full senate vote. Republicans in several Senate committees continue to criticize their Democrat colleagues for making the process difficult.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), chair of the Finance Committee which held hearings for Mnuchin, said his Democratic committee colleagues “shouldn’t treat dignified people who are willing to sacrifice and serve in the government this way.” He was “really disappointed” in his Democratic colleagues and predicted that the nominees are going through “regardless.”
Not every nominee has faced backlash from the other party. Several of President Trump’s nominees have been considered qualified by both sides of the aisle. Defense Secretary James Mattis was confirmed on Trump’s first day in office in a 98-1 vote. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was confirmed on January 24 in a 96-4 vote. These cabinet level officials were able to begin their tenure, while others still wait for confirmation. As Trump’s nominees await Senate approval, each position is occupied by an acting head of the department appointed by Obama.
In addition to his cabinet, President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Before Trump announced his pick, several Democrats in the Senate planned to vote against his selection. Their stubbornness is in response to the Republicans’ refusal to hold a vote on Obama’s nominee last March following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate Democrats plan to deny Gorsuch’s hearing as long as possible, citing the Republicans partisanship last year as an excuse. In the meantime, the Supreme Court will remain with a vacant seat.