Despite Democratic boycott, Senate panel approves Mnuchin and Price

Senate Democrats refused to show up for committee votes on Rep. Tom Price's nomination for health secretary and financier Steven Mnuchin's nomination for treasury secretary.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File
Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin arrives on Capitol Hill on Jan. 19 to testify at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.

In an escalation of political partisanship, Republicans on Senate panels approved President Trump's nominees for secretaries of the Treasury and the Department of Health and Human Services, after suspending a rule requiring a Democrat to be present.

Democrats had boycotted the Senate Finance Committee votes on the two nominees – Steven Mnuchin as head of the Treasury Department and Rep. Tom Price (R) of Georgia for health secretary – citing concerns about the two men's financial backgrounds. 

The Senate Finance Committee approved Rep. Mr. Price and Mr. Mnuchin with a pair of 14-0 roll calls. Before approving the two nominees, the committee's Republicans voted 14-0 to suspend a rule that requires at least one Democrat to be present for any votes. Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, (R) of Utah, said the Democrats had forced them to take extraordinary measures, saying their boycott was "one of the most pathetic things I've ever seen" and "a nefarious breach of protocol."

Though all three nominees are still expected to be confirmed once they are voted on by the full Republican-controlled Senate, the Democrats’ protests may signal that they will be a confrontational minority, committed to opposing Trump wherever they feel his values do not align with theirs.

Democrats are obliged to “thoroughly vet” the nominees, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer told reporters, adding, “They could be in office up to four years, and it makes eminent sense to get their views out.”

The hostility between the parties appears to have intensified since Friday, when Trump imposed a temporary travel ban on refugees and all visitors from seven predominantly Muslim nations. Democrats see the move as unconstitutional.

Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee have accused both men of misleading the public about their finances.

Price “misled the Congress and he misled the American people,” top Finance Committee Democrat Ron Wyden said, referring to a Wall Street Journal report that Price received a special offer on shares in biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd. He had testified that those shares were available to all investors.

Mnuchin has been criticized over reports by the Columbus Dispatch that his former bank, OneWest, used “robo-signing,” a technique associated with fraud, to sign hundreds of mortgage documents. Mnuchin denied the report. Democrats also contend that the selection of Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker and hedge fund manager, runs counter to Trump’s promise to crack down on Wall Street.

Forty-seven protesters were arrested in a Senate office building Tuesday, as they called for Sen. Hatch to justify the choice of Price and opposed the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Obama’s signature healthcare law.

Few doubt that all three nominees will eventually be confirmed. For Democrats, it’s more a question of highlighting points of contention and potentially forcing discussion on the issues.

Progress continues for other nominees, too. On Tuesday, the full Senate confirmed Elaine Chao as transportation secretary, and advanced Trump’s picks for Education, Energy, Interior, and the Small Business Administration.

Material from the Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Despite Democratic boycott, Senate panel approves Mnuchin and Price
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today