Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has laid the groundwork for another procedural slog on the Senate floor that could stretch into the early part of March.
First up after a previously scheduled vote Tuesday morning on Linda McMahon’s nomination to helm the Small Business Administration will be the Office of Management and Budget director nominee, Rep. Mick Mulvaney. The South Carolina Republican will receive a vote this week after what’s expected to be a blistering debate likely focused on his tea party past, including his past opposition to increased defense spending.
The Senate will then turn to the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be EPA administrator. Democrats have been girding for that fight, given Pruitt’s record as a legal thorn in the side of the EPA during the Obama administration.
As a practical matter, that might be all the Senate does before the week-long Presidents Day break, even though McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, moved to limit debate Monday night on a half-dozen of President Donald Trump’s nominees.
“Those we can’t do this week, we’ll finish when we come back,” Majority Whip John Cornyn said. “Pruitt and Mulvaney I think will be this week.”
The Texas Republican suggested that under regular order, the week’s schedule leading into the recess could set up the last floor votes on Saturday. But Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain is among the lawmakers who will be sure to push for a quick exit.
The Arizona Republican is set to lead a delegation to the Munich security conference, and he confirmed Monday that, in an ideal world, the senators making the trip would be departing after last votes on Thursday.
“We might have to wait until Friday,” McCain said. “There’s a big delegation. [Vice President Mike Pence] is going to be there, [Defense Secretary James Mattis] is going to be there, so I hope we don’t miss much of it.”
After Pruitt, the terrain could conceivably be less rocky for McConnell and the various remaining Trump nominees. Under the chamber’s rules, they would be taken up in the order that the majority leader filed the paperwork.
That means after dispensing with Pruitt, the next votes would be on Wilbur Ross for Commerce secretary, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke to be Interior secretary, Ben Carson as Housing and Urban Development secretary and finally, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to slot in as Energy secretary.
Assuming a reasonable time for debate for each of those nominees, Carson and Perry might end up advancing to confirmation in early March.
Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.