Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer offered an explicit warning to Republicans on Monday, saying Democrats are willing to slow down confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s Cabinet until potential nominees finish independent ethics reviews.
Democrats cannot stop Trump’s Cabinet with filibusters, thanks to a rules change they pushed through in 2013, but they can prolong the process for weeks by forcing the GOP to burn through extra time before final floor votes are scheduled. Schumer suggested that such a delay could be in the offing.
“To spend an extra day or two on each nominee; even if it takes several weeks to get through them all in order to carefully consider their nominations…that’s well worth it,” he said.
Schumer read aloud on the Senate floor from a letter that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sent in February 2009 asking for President Barack Obama’s nominees to only receive hearings after the independent Office of Government Ethics and FBI finish vetting their backgrounds. The New York Democrat said the GOP should take the same approach to Trump’s would-be Cabinet — several members of which have yet to finish their OGE ethics reviews.
And shortly afterward, the Democratic leader sent a copy of the letter back to McConnell, after scratching out the original recipients and scrawling “Mitch” instead.
“I only ask respectfully that the Republican majority follow the same set of standards they had in 2009 when the shoe was on the other foot,” Schumer said. “Especially because these nominees raise particular concerns.”
Notably, McConnell sent his 2009 letter, which one source told POLITICO did not receive a response at the time from then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), weeks after the Senate confirmed seven senior Obama nominees on his first day in office. The Kentucky Republican has called for a similar pace for Trump’s Cabinet, telling reporters at Trump Tower on Monday that he wants to see upwards of a half-dozen nominees confirmed on Inauguration Day, and on Sunday urged Democrats to “grow up.”
Nine members of Trump’s prospective Cabinet are set to receive confirmation hearings this week, with OGE ethics reviews still unreleased for four of them — Education Secretary pick Betsy DeVos, Commerce Secretary pick Wilbur Ross, Housing and Urban Development pick Ben Carson, and retired Gen. John Kelly, the president-elect’s Department of Homeland Security pick.