Senate to Vote on at Least Two Cabinet Nominees Friday

Democrats are calling for more time to vet controversial nominees

Schumer said Democrats want more time to vet nominees. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Schumer said Democrats want more time to vet nominees. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 19, 2017 at 2:46pm

The Senate is expected to vote on at least two of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees after he is sworn in on Friday. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Thursday that he expected votes on retired Gens. John Kelly to be the next Homeland Security secretary and James Mattis to lead the Defense Department. Schumer also said debate will begin on Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo’s nomination to be the CIA director, with a vote possible on Friday or early next week.

Schumer said votes on other “noncontroversial nominees” are possible, but he is still negotiating the timing with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Asked why the timing issues had not yet been resolved, Schumer told Roll Call, “We’re negotiating. … Anyone in my caucus can hold them up. Any single person has the right to ask for full debate.”

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McConnell has said he is frustrated that more nominees will not be confirmed on the first day of the new Trump administration. He and other Republicans are quick to point out that seven of President Barack Obama’s nominees were confirmed on his inauguration day in 2009.

But Schumer said Republicans have been trying to jam nominees through the confirmation process, and senators have not been given enough time to properly vet them. He threatened extensive floor debate on the nominees, which could prolong the confirmation process.

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“Senate Republicans did not want to have a debate on the merits of these nominees in committee, but they should be prepared to do so on the floor of the United States Senate,” he said at a Thursday press conference. 

Schumer said Democrats want some nominees to return for further questioning, pointing to the eight picks with whom Democrats have the most problems, with the exclusion of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the attorney general nominee. Sessions had two days of hearings with extensive rounds of questioning. 

The other nominees most troubling to Democrats include Secretary of State-designee Rex Tillerson, Health and Human Services nominee Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, Treasury nominee Steve Mnuchin, EPA Director-designee Scott Pruitt, Office of Management and Budget Director-designee Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, Education nominee Betsy DeVos, and Labor nominee Andy Puzder.

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Trump officially named his last Cabinet pick Thursday, choosing former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to run the Agriculture Department. Perdue is a cousin of the Georgia’s Republican junior senator, David Perdue.

The senator said in a statement that his cousin’s “executive experience as a two-term governor of Georgia, the first Republican in 135 years, as well as his veterinary background and agribusiness career, are a few of the many reasons he is the best person for the job.”

With Perdue’s selection rounding out Trump’s Cabinet picks, Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto pointed out that none of the president-elect’s Cabinet choices are Latino. 

“I am stunned by the lack of diversity of the White House’s nominees for these Cabinet positions,” said Cortez Masto, elected last November as the first Latina senator.