US senate begins scrutiny of Trump nominees

US President-elect, Donald Trump


Confirmation hearings begin this week on Capitol Hill for Alabama Sen. Jeff Session as U.S. attorney general and other Cabinet picks from President-elect Donald Trump amid increasing partisan threats about derailing nominees and calls to keep politics out of the process.

The most recent exchange began Saturday when Democrats called for a delay in the hearings including at least seven this week because several of Trump’s nominees have purportedly failed to complete ethics reviews to avoid conflicts of interest.

Democrats called for the delay based on letter this weekend from the Office of Government Ethics to Senate leaders stating that some of the nominees scheduled for hearings have yet to complete their ethics review process.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday the complaints are merely “procedural” and are being raised by Democrats frustrated about him and fellow Republicans now controlling the House, Senate and White House.

“I understand that. But we need to sort of grow up here and get past that,” the Kentucky senator told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“We confirmed seven Cabinet appointments the day President Obama was sworn in. We didn’t like most of them either. But he won the election.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the ethics review is to ensuring wealthy Cabinet members work for the American people instead of “their own bottom line and that they plan to fully comply with the law.”

Republicans are intent on getting as many Trump nominees through the arduous confirmation process before the incoming Republican president takes the oath of office on Jan. 20.

Several of Trump’s picks are wealth Americans with far-reaching business connections.

They include Republican mega-donor Betsy DeVos, for education secretary; ExxonMobile CEO Rex Tillerson, for secretary of state; Billionaire private-equity investor Wilbur Ross, for commerce secretary and former Goldman Sachs executive Steve Mnuchin for treasury secretary.

Despite all of the wrangling ahead of the Senate confirmation hearings, Trump’s nominees will almost certainly get enough votes in the chamber’s GOP-led committees.

However, they could run into delays when both parties cast final votes on the Senate floor, despite needing only 51 “yeahs.”

Democrats could use procedural moves to extend the debate on each of the nominees, but they don’t have the power to use the filibuster to block the nominations, because in the last Congress they changed the threshold on such filibusters from 60 to 51 votes.

The hearings begin Tuesday with Sessions in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the same panel that in 1986 denied him a federal judgeship, following allegations that he had made racist remarks and called the NAACP “un-American.”

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