It was never an intelligent gambit for Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee to boycott its meetings earlier this week in order to attempt to postpone the votes on DHHS nominee Tom Price and Treasury nominee Stephen Mnuchin, and today the clownshow came to a rapid end.
Senate Republicans took an extraordinary step Wednesday to move forward with two of President Donald Trump’s top Cabinet nominees after confronting a boycott from Democrats.
Republican lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee — the panel that oversees the nominations of Steve Mnuchin to be Treasury secretary and Rep. Tom Price to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services — gathered for the second day in a row with Democrats on the committee refusing to show up.
The dramatic move could foreshadow strategy from Republicans over contentious battles still to come as Democrats try to use a variety of Senate procedures to stall the newly empowered GOP. The most high-profile of upcoming fights is Trump’s Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch, a nomination that would require at least 60 votes to break a filibuster.
Under committee rules, it is required that at least one Democrat be present for the panel to vote to send a nominee to the Senate floor. On Tuesday, not a single Democrat showed up, putting the two nominations at a standstill.
Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, pointed to the “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the gathering and allowed the Republicans in the room vote to suspend the rules of the committee.
With the committee rules suspended, the 14 Republicans in the room voted to move the Mnuchin and Price nominations to the full Senate, even without the presence of a single member of the opposite party.
Hatch was one of the Senate Republicans speaking out against nuking the filibuster, and his forebearance was paid off by the Democrats turning his committee room into a nursery. One wonders whether his opinion of the nuclear option has been colored by his experience this week.