Republicans Forced to Delay Senate Committee Votes on Price, Mnuchin

January 31, 2017 12:54 pm Last Updated: January 31, 2017 1:08 pm

Democrats blocked planned Senate committee votes on President Donald Trump’s picks to be Health and Treasury secretaries on Tuesday, boycotting the session and demanding more information on the two nominees’ past financial behavior.

The extraordinary and abrupt postponement came as congressional Democrats, in a confrontational mood over Trump administration actions, also used lengthy speeches at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting considering Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to be attorney general.

At another committee, lawmakers voted to send Trump’s pick to head the Education Department, Betsy DeVos, to the full Senate for a vote.

In a hastily called briefing for reporters, Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee said they would not attend the panel’s planned votes until they could ask more questions about Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., the health nominee and Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s Treasury selection, who they said had misled Congress about their backgrounds.

The Democrats’ action prevented the Finance panel from acting because under committee rules, 13 of its members—including at least one Democrat—must be present for votes.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Nominee Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) testifies during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. on Jan. 17, 2017.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Nominee Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) testifies during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. on Jan. 17, 2017. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said Price and Mnuchin would hold positions “that directly affect peoples’ lives every day. The truth matters.”

Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, accused Democrats of “a lack of desire to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities.”

“They ought to stop posturing and acting like idiots,” he said.

In 2013 when Democrats controlled the Senate, Republicans boycotted a committee vote on Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency, temporarily stalling it.

Democrats forcing the delay of Finance committee votes cited one report in The Wall Street Journal that Price received a special, discounted offer to buy stock in a biomedical company, which contradicted his testimony to Congress.

Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

They said another report in The Columbus Dispatch showed documents revealing that Mnuchin had not been truthful with the Senate in the confirmation process in comments about how his bank OneWest had handled home foreclosures.

Republicans have supported both men, and both have strongly defended their actions.

Democrats have opposed Price, a seven-term congressional veteran, for his staunch backing of his party’s drive to scuttle Obama’s health care law and to reshape Medicare and Medicaid, which help older and low-income people afford medical care.

Democrats have criticized Mnuchin for not initially revealing nearly $100 million in assets, and were expected to vote against both nominees. They’ve also accused him of failing to protect homeowners from foreclosures and criticized him for not initially disclosing all his assets.

Separately, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 12-11 to approve DeVos, a GOP donor and conservative activist, as education secretary.