Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Democrats Attempt to Delay Confirmation Vote on Health Secretary, Republicans Move Forward

Drew Thies

The confirmation process for Rep. Tom Price, nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, was delayed on Tuesday when Democrats walked out of a key procedural vote.

Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee refused to be present for a vote that would send the confirmation process to the full Senate floor. Senate Finance Committee rules require at least one member of the minority party be present to reach a quorum to call a vote.

Senate Finance Republicans, however, gained approval Wednesday from a Senate Parliamentarian to suspend the rules, allowing a simple majority to confirm nominees out of the committee. This allows Republicans to send a confirmation vote on Price to the full Senate floor.

Concerns over the speed of the confirmation process and lingering questions over stock purchases Price made while a Member of Congress were key points of the Democrats' decision to delay the vote. Republicans accused the Democrats of slowing the process in an attempt to prevent progress on health reform efforts.

Democrats’ walk out also delayed the committee vote for Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin, but again, the Republicans advanced Mnuchin's nomination by suspending the Committee rules.

In a statement, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Ut.) said, “We took some unprecedented actions today due to the unprecedented obstruction on the part of our colleagues.”

Thus far, four of President Trump’s cabinet picks have been confirmed by the Senate: Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, James Mattis as Secretary of Defense, Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation, and John Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security. Two other cabinet-level positions that require Senate confirmation have also been finalized: Mike Pompeo as Director of the C.I.A. and Nikki Haley as U.N. ambassador.

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