Republicans gave into Democratic demands and pushed back two confirmation hearings that were on the schedule for Wednesday.
Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos’ hearing was delayed until next Tuesday. President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency will appear before lawmakers on the Senate’s Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
The Judiciary Committee began its first round of talks with Jeff Sessions today. His hearing is expected to last two days, continuing on Wednesday.
Rex Tillerson, Trump’s controversial nominee for secretary of state, and Elaine Chao, the least controversial of Trump’s cabinet appointments, are the only representatives of the incoming administration whose grillings will begin tomorrow.
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Republicans gave into Democratic demands and pushed back two confirmation hearings that were on the schedule for Wednesday. Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos’ hearing was delayed until next Tuesday. CIA pick Mike Pompeo will appear before lawmakers on Thursday
The change of plans shifts much heavy-lifting to Thursday, when three other candidates were on tap to testify. Pompeo makes four.
Ben Carson, up for Housing and Urban Development, James Mattis, in line for Defense, and Wilbur Ross, Trump’s choice for Commerce, were already in the queue to answer questions from legislators Thursday.
Carson, Mattis, Pompeo and Ross aren’t high-level targets for Democrats. Tillerson is. His relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin has some Republican lawmakers on fence about confirming him to the nation’s top diplomatic post, too.
The lightened load on Wednesday ensures that the Tillerson and Sessions hearings – which are likely to bleed into a Trump’s first press conference since he was elected – receive optimal attention.
DeVos, whose husband’s estimated net worth is $5.2 billion, was one of the Trump nominees Democrats wanted to put a temporary hold because she has not been fully vetted by the Office of Government Ethics.
Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander said in a joint statement with the ranking Democrat on the panel, Patty Murray, that her hearing had been moved ‘at the request of the Senate leadership to accommodate the Senate schedule.’
It was rescheduled for Tuesday, January 17th at 5:00 pm.
Senators in charge of the Intelligence Committee did not provide a reason this morning for the one-day delay they gave Pompeo. A press release said it would take place at the same time as before, but on Thursday instead of Wednesday.
Alabama Senator and immigration hardliner Jeff Sessions was the first of the Trump nominees to face senators today.
Protesters dressed like members of the Ku Klux Klan crashed his hearing this morning, hurling insults at him and calling him a ‘racist’ in response to racially insensitive comments he made when he was a prosecutor. The charges stopped him from being confirmed by the same Senate committee in 1986 to a federal judgeship.
Alabama Senator and immigration hardliner Jeff Sessions was the first of the Trump nominees to face senators today
Protesters dressed like members of the Ku Klux Klan crashed his hearing this morning, hurling insults at him and calling him a ‘racist’ in response to racially insensitive comments he made when he was a prosecutor
President-elect Donald Trump said yesterday that he expects all his appointees to make it out of the confirmation process – including Sessions. He’s pictured in the Trump Tower lobby on Monday, where he spoke to reporters
NOMINEES BEFORE SENATORS THIS WEEK
Tuesday: Alabama Sen. and Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions; Department of Homeland Security appointee John Kelly
Wednesday: Sessions hearing continued; former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson; Elaine Chao, a former labor secretary who Trump tapped for Transportation
POSTPONED: Betsy DeVos, nominated for education secretary – her hearing is now next Tuesday.
POSTPONED: Congressman Mike Pompeo, Trump’s choice to lead the CIA was to appear before senators on Wednesday.
His hearing was rescheduled for Thursday.
The CIA director is not a member of the president’s cabinet but the position requires Senate confirmation.
Thursday: Ben Carson – up for Housing and Urban Development – James Mattis – in line for Defense – and Wilbur Ross – Trump’s choice for Commerce – and Pompeo are now on tap for Thursday.
Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder’s nomination hearing was tentatively on the calendar for Thursday or the week of Jan. 16.
The adjustment to DeVos’ hearing means that senators on the educaiton and labor committee won’t hear from him for weeks, maybe not until February.
Addressing the matter today, Sessions said, ‘I was accused in 1986 of failing to protect the voting rights of African-Americans by presenting the Perry County case, the voter fraud case, and of condemning civil rights advocates and organization.
‘And even harboring, amazingly, sympathies for the KKK.’
He said the charges were ‘false,’ denying that he ever called the NAACP ‘un-American.’
Trump predicted yesterday that all of his cabinet nominee would be confirmed, including Sessions.
‘I think he’s going to do great. High quality man,’ the president-elect said of his attorney general.
Speaking about his nominees in general, Trump said, ‘I think they’ll all pass. I think every nomination will be — they’re all at the highest level….I think they’re going to do very well.’
Senate Republicans are aiming to have a half dozen of Trump’s appointees cleared for work by the time he takes office on Jan. 20.
They’ll hold hearings on at least seven of the president-elect’s cabinet picks and his chosen CIA director this week in the jam-packed, three-day session that overlaps with the hotly anticipated Trump press conference.
Department of Homeland Security appointee John Kelly is also appearing before senators today. His hearing begins this afternoon.
After a meeting at Trump Tower yesterday morning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was ‘hopeful’ his chamber would approve ‘up to six or seven’ of Trump’s nominees, ‘particularly national security team in place — on Day One’
Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder’s nomination hearing was tentatively on the calendar for Thursday, as well. Another day that under consideration was next Tuesday.
Politico says Puzder’s hearing is being delayed until after Trump takes office. It might not happen until February now that the committee is seeing DeVos next Tuesday instead of tomorrow.
That leaves seven cabinet positions for senators to review at a later date – Labor, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Treasury, Interior, Energy and Veterans Affairs.
They must also consider non-cabinet appointees to the Environmental Protection Agency, United Nations, Office of Management and Budget, U.S. Trade Representative, Small Business Administrator, Director of National Intelligence and head of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Trump has not yet named anyone to lead his Council of Economic Advisers. He has not picked an Agriculture Secretary of Veterans Affairs head yet, either.
Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate. They need 51 senators to confirm each of Trump’s nominees under rules that were previously adopted by Democrats
Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate. They need 51 senators to confirm each of Trump’s nominees under rules that were previously adopted by Democrats.
They can only afford to shed one Republican senator each time a nominee comes up for a vote if Democrats stick together.
After a meeting at Trump Tower yesterday morning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was ‘hopeful’ his chamber would approve ‘up to six or seven’ of Trump’s nominees, ‘particularly national security team in place — on Day One.’
Democrats have said they need more time to review possible conflicts of interest for some of Trump’s wealthy nominees like DeVos.
They’ve been demanding that confirmation proceedings be halted until Trump’s cabinet picks finish financial disclosure forms and other ethics paperwork that was provided and must be completed.
‘Cabinet officials must put our country’s interests before their own. No conf hearings should be held until we’re certain that’s the case,’ Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.
Warren and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer produced a letter from the independent Office of Government Ethics on Saturday raising concerns about the speed at which it was having to vet the president-elect’s appointments.
Hearings this week include Rex Tillerson, whose relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin has some Republican lawmakers on fence about confirming him to the nation’s top diplomatic post. He’s pictured speaking to Democratic Sen. Chris Coons last week
OGE Director Walter Shaub told the lawmakers in a letter that his agency was under ‘pressure’ to ‘rush’ through their reviews.
‘More significantly, it has left some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings, he said.
On Twitter Warren said, ‘This is ridiculous. @realDonaldTrump’s noms can’t drag their feet on ethics paperwork while their Senate friends try to run out the clock.’
Schumer said Monday on the Senate floor, ‘Our caucus was and is concerned about the timely completion about the standard ethics paperwork.’
McConnell said the same day from the lobby of Trump Tower that ‘everybody will be properly vetted as they have been in the past.’
Senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Fox & Friends Monday morning that the ‘process that takes a great deal of time’ and accused Senate Democrats of playing ‘political peeping Toms’ with nominees’ financial holdings paperwork.
Conway said Trump’s nominees deserve the ‘type of swift action’ that Barack Obama’s nominees received in 2009, when the Senate confirmed seven by voice vote on the day of his inauguration. The legislative body confirmed five more later that week.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said later in the day, during his regular briefing, that the Obama administration ‘never asked for a nominee to get a hearing’ until their Office of Government Ethics paperwork was complete.
The Barack Obama spokesman said, ‘Republicans in the Senate are forming their own “cheap suit caucus.”
‘And that’s not a commentary on their wardrobe,’ he explained. ‘It’s a commentary on the fact that they are folding and rubber stamping…the nominees of the incoming Trump administration.’
Earnest said it ‘sounds like a lot of Americans who voted to “drain the swamp” aren’t getting what they hoped for, even before their guy takes office.’
Schumer said the difference between 2009 and 2017 is that ‘President Obama’s nominees, they met all the standards laid out’ by then Minority Leader McConnell. ‘President-elect Trump’s nominees have not.’
Every Obama cabinet nominee had their ethics agreement in before their hearing and underwent a full FBI background before the Senate gave them consideration, Schumer said.
‘The President-elect’s nominees are way behind that mark,’ he stated.
TRUMP CABINET APPOINTEES GOING BEFORE SENATE COMMITTEES THIS WEEK
REX TILLERSON – DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, 64, faces the toughest confirmation fight.
Tillerson has only ever worked in the private sector, starting his career at Exxon when he graduated from college. He has a net worth of $245 million after receiving a $180 million buy-out from his former company, which he left early to join the Trump administration.
Former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, 64, faces the toughest confirmation fight
Legislators are concerned that Tillerson, who was awarded the order of Friendship by Vladimir Putin in 2013, will be too friendly to the Russian government, which was just sanctioned by the Obama administration for hacking into Democratic officials’ and operatives’ accounts.
The prospective secretary of state signed a deal with Russian-owned oil company Rosneft in 2011 to drill in the Arctic. That work was halted in 2014 when the U.S. hit Russia with sanctions tied to its incursion into Ukraine.
The Exxon exec had lobbied lawmakers on Capitol Hill not to impose sanctions over the international incident, arguing that they are ineffective because of the difficulty of implementing them comprehensively.
He’s sure to receive questions from senators about his position on future sanctions, and the possibility that old ones will be overturned, the Iran nuclear deal, the conflict between Israel and Palestine and fighting in Syria.
Two Republicans, Marco Rubio and John McCain, have expressed concerns about Tillerson’s ties to Putin.
Rubio serves on the Foreign Relations committee, which has a one-vote majority over Democrats. If he flips, Tillerson won’t make it to the full Senate for a vote.
Should he make it through committee but lose votes from Rubio and McCain when it matters most, Republicans would need to convince a Democrat to swing their way.
Sen. Joe Manchin of Wyoming, who was on Trump’s short list for Energy secretary, has said he’d consider voting with Republicans to confirm Tillerson.
Senators on the Foreign Relations committee will hear him out on Wednesday.
JEFF SESSIONS – DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Jeff Sessions nomination will be contentious, but he’s likely to make it through, as Trump indicated today
Protesters made a spectacle of Alabama senator Jeff Sessions’s hearing on Tuesday, bringing up decades-old statements that kept Sessions from being confirmed to a federal judgeship by Judiciary Committee in 1986.
Former colleagues of the Republican testified then that he made racist statements about blacks, using the N-word, calling a black U. S. attorney ‘boy’, and stating that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was ‘OK until I found out they smoked pot.’
Combined with his anti-illegal immigration positions, Democrats are worried he’ll redirect the department’s resources from investigating hate crimes to carrying out mass deportations.
He voted against 2009 legislation that would have extended legal protections to LGBT individuals.
The 70-year-old also sponsored legislation to award Rosa Parks the Congressional Gold Medal and voted in 2006 to renew the Voting Rights Act for 25 years.
Republicans holds an 11-9 majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee, ensuring that appointment will make it to the full Senate, even if he recuses himself as Democrats are demanding.
If he sits out the final tally, no other Republicans can vote against him for his appointment to pass, assuming he gets no Democratic support. It’s dicey, but he’s likely to make it through, as Trump indicated.
JOHN KELLY – DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
Retired four-star General John Kelly is expected to breeze through his Senate confirmation hearing for DHS. He’s pictured meeting with McConnell last Thursday
Retired four-star General John Kelly is expected to breeze through his Senate confirmation hearing for DHS today.
The 66-year-old who lead the United States Southern Command from 2012 to 2016, which put him in charge of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba has worked with former secretaries of defense Bob Gates and Leon Panetta, the latter of which has endorsed his appointment.
Kelly’s 2015 claim that ‘half a million people have died from narco-terrorism’ since 9/11 could cause heartburn when he takes questions from senators on the Homeland Security Committee tomorrow afternoon, however.
A Marine Corps veteran, Kelly also would be the first DHS head to have worn the uniform since the position was created after Sept. 11.
BEN CARSON – HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
Ben Carson, 65, has no experience working in the government or in the housing sector. Despite Carson’s relative lack of qualifications he’s not a top target of Democrats, who are more focused on other Trump nominees, like Tillerson
Ben Carson, 65, has no experience working in the government or in the housing sector. The retired neurosurgeon who ran for president against Trump initially cited his lack of experience as a public servant and said he couldn’t serve in the new administration.
Carson had a change of heart accepted Trump’s offer to be his HUD secretary, saying he’d draw on his experiences treating urban youth and growing up in Detroit, Michigan, to make decisions.
It is unclear if Carson’s family ever lived in Section 8 housing or received federal housing subsidies, and he’s likely to be asked about it Thursday by senators on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee.
He’s opined in the past about the government contributing a culture of ‘dependency’ among minorities with safety net programs.
Despite Carson’s relative lack of qualifications for the position, he’s not a top target of Democrats, who are more focused on Trump’s nominees to high-profile positions, like secretary of state.
BETSY DEVOS – DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
A former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, Republican megadonor, philanthropist and school choice activist, Betsy DeVos, like many of Trump’s nominees, has never worked for the government
Betsy DeVos was scheduled to testify in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday, but her haring was moved to next Tuesday.
A former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, Republican megadonor, philanthropist and school choice activist, DeVos, like many of Trump’s nominees, has never worked for the government.
DeVos’ husband Richard is heir to the Amway fortune. The DeVos’ donated to Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio in the primary and Betsy called Trump an ‘interloper.’
The 59-year-old’s fight for charter schools and school vouchers has earned rebukes from teacher’s unions.
American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten has derided DeVos as the ‘most ideological, anti-public education nominee’ to lead the Education Department ever.
Democrats want DeVos’ political action group, All Children Matter, to pay $5.3 in fine and penalties from campaign finance violations before they’ll consider her.
ELAINE CHAO – DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Elaine Chao, 63, is one of the most qualified Trump nominees on paper and the least controversial
Elaine Chao, 63, is one of the most qualified Trump nominees on paper and the least controversial.
She served as labor secretary to George W. Bush and deputy secretary of transportation to his father, George H.W. Bush.
Chao was a member of Trump’s Asian Pacific American Advisory Council during his campaign, and she’s married to McConnell.
She’ll face no real opposition in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Wednesday.
JAMES MATTIS – DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Retired General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis is well-liked by Democrats, but needs a waiver from the Senate to oversee the Department of Defense. He’s pictured meeting with Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand last week
Retired General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis is a former head of United States Central Command and a NATO Supreme Allied Commander.
He retired from military service in 2013. Mattis, 66, is a member of General Dynamics’ Board of Directors. The general is well-liked by Democrats, but needs a waiver from the Senate to oversee the Department of Defense.
The National Security Act of 1947 says the head of the Pentagon must have completed service at least seven years before returning.
Senators on the Armed Services committee will take a vote on the waiver immediately after Mattis’ Thursday hearing. He needs eight Democrats to vote for the waiver in the full body to hit 60, the number of votes necessary to overcome a filibuster.
Mattis’ financial disclosure forms revealed that he’s worth as much as $10 million and received payments of $20,000 or more from Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Northrup Grumman to give speeches last year. He earned another $419,000 as a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
He’s agreed to divest in his General Dynamics stock and resign from Hoover – once he’s confirmed to DOD
WILBUR ROSS – DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
A billionaire, like Trump, Wilbur Ross, 79, has earned a reputation as a turnaround artist. He’s likely to get a pass from Democrats as they set their sights on hedge funder Steve Mnunchin, Trump’s pick for Treasury
A billionaire, like Trump, Wilbur Ross, 79, has earned a reputation as a turnaround artist.
Known as ‘the king of bankruptcy,’ Ross, has a net worth of $2.9 billion. He heads a private equity fund that specializes in rescuing failing businesses and turning them around.
Norm Eisen, chief ethics lawyer to President Barack Obama, told Politico that Ross ‘might be the second-most complicated person in the administration to vet, behind the president-elect himself’ because of all his holdings.
He’ll sit in front of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee on Thursday.
Ross admitted to a 1991 DUI in the Hamptons that saw him pay a $400 fine and have his license suspended for 90 days in a questionnaire he filled out at the direction of the committee.
He also disclosed donating hefty amounts to Republicans in the past, including Rubio and McCain. The billionaire’s likely to get a pass from Democrats as they set their sights on hedge funder Steve Mnunchin, Trump’s pick for Treasury.
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