Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Democrats Could Help Confirm Up to Four Trump Nominees Friday

  • Leaders complain Republicans are rushing process for others
  • National security picks among those facing least opposition

Senate Democrats say a handful of Cabinet nominees could get confirmed on the day President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in, even as they complain Republicans are rushing through other more controversial picks. 

As many as four nominees could be approved on Friday, including retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, whose nomination to be Defense secretary was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee on a 26-1 vote Wednesday. Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York was the sole no vote.

The other three currently being negotiated over are retired Marine Corps General John F. Kelly, Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security; Elaine Chao, the Transportation Secretary nominee; and Representative Mike Pompeo to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters the GOP goal of seven confirmation votes -- which is the number President Barack Obama saw on his first inauguration in 2008 -- is unacceptable.

“We have seen repeated efforts by the Trump transition, aided and abetted by Senate Republicans, to jam through nominees in a way that hides their views from the American people,” he told reporters Wednesday.

The Senate is planning to gavel in Friday afternoon, several hours after Trump is sworn in.

Slow Paperwork

Unlike in 2008, Schumer said, some nominees didn’t complete their required financial disclosures in time, including Education secretary pick Betsy DeVos. And Democrats were limited to asking just a single round of questions lasting several minutes each in hearings this week for DeVos and Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price, he said.

Republicans control the Senate 52-48, and Democrats lack the votes to block any of Trump’s Cabinet choices on their own after a 2013 change in Senate rules ended filibusters on executive branch nominations. Even so, Republicans need agreement with Democrats to allow votes to move quickly, because the minority party can force debate for up to 30 hours on each Cabinet nominee.

Most of Trump’s picks are still working through the confirmation process, meeting with lawmakers and completing needed disclosures. 

Former Exxon Mobil Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick to lead the State Department, met Wednesday morning with Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin. The senator told reporters afterward he still hasn’t decided whether he’ll back the nominee. 

Votes Next Week

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker said Wednesday that the panel could approve both Tillerson and Nikki Haley, Trump’s pick to be United Nations ambassador, as early as Monday.

Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s choice for attorney general, “still has questions to answer, DeVos’s paperwork is still coming in, some have not filed the basic papers,” Durbin said. “There are a lot of them in the works.”

Votes are scheduled for Tuesday by the Judiciary Committee on Sessions, the Banking Committee on Ben Carson to lead Housing and Urban Development, and the panel that oversees education on DeVos.

Meanwhile, Schumer said that Representative Mick Mulvaney, nominated to run the White House Office of Management and Budget, should be disqualified after the New York Times reported that he admitted he failed to pay $15,000 in payroll taxes for a nanny he once employed.

Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s nominee to be Treasury secretary, still hasn’t testified yet. He’ll appear before the Senate Finance Committee Thursday.

— With assistance by James Rowley, and Roxana Tiron

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