Nomination of Price to head HHS advances

(Bloomberg) – Facing a boycott from Democrats, a Senate panel took what it called emergency steps Wednesday to advance the nominations of Steven Mnuchin to run Treasury and Tom Price to head Health and Human Services.

The Senate Finance Committee moved to report both of President Donald Trump’s nominees to the Senate floor on 14-0 votes, with only Republicans participating, after voting to suspend the panel’s rules.

The unusual steps came one day after Democrats forced a delay on scheduled votes by boycotting the committee’s meeting. Democrats say they need more time to scrutinize Trump’s picks, but they can’t block any of them if Republicans remain united.

Chairman Orrin Hatch defended his decision to take emergency measures to push the nominations forward.

“I don’t care what they do, but the parliamentarian said this is a proper decision.” he told reporters after the votes.

Democrats “didn’t even have the courtesy to tell me they weren’t going to show up yesterday and were holding press conferences out there without even talking to me. So I don’t feel a bit sorry for them,” Hatch said. “I don’t care what they want at this point. They’ve proven that they don’t act in good faith.”

Few Options

Democrats could try to challenge the committee’s actions when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tries to bring the nominations up for a floor vote, but Republicans said they don’t see any way for Democrats to block the picks at that point.

“Cloture is a simple majority thanks to the Democrats’ nuclear option,” said Don Stewart, a McConnell spokesman, referring to a rules change pushed through by Democrats in 2013 that lowered the threshold for most nominees.

Hatch told reporters afterward he didn’t know when a floor vote would be scheduled on either nominee.

McConnell said Wednesday morning that Democrats couldn’t do anything to stop Trump’s nominees.

“We’re gonna win this war,” he said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. “They can huff and they can puff, but they’re not going to blow the House down. And we’re going to confirm these nominees and move on with the business of this administration.”

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