Senate Democrats Boycott Committee Votes on Trump Nominees

(CN) – Senate Democrats boycotted a planned committee vote on two of President Donald Trump’s nominees to lead the Treasury Department and the Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday, making it impossible for the vote to go forward.

Democrats said they were delaying the vote because they wanted more information on HHS secretary nominee Tom Price’s stock trades in an Australian medical company and reports that Steve Mnuchin’s former bank, OneWest, used automated “robosignings” of foreclosures, which apparently contradicted statements he made to senators.

Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said he planned to reschedule the votes but did not say when. He said Democrats “ought to stop posturing and acting like idiots.”

In the meantime, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that she’ll vote against President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California says she can’t reconcile the independence required in the job “with the partisanship this nominee has exhibited.” Sessions was one of Trump’s earliest supporters.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting Tuesday to vote on the nomination.

Feinstein also praised Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general who was fired by Trump Monday after she publicly questioned the constitutionality of his refugee and immigration ban.

“That statement took a steel spine to stand up and say no,” Feinstein said. “That is what an attorney general must be willing and able to do.”

Feinstein said she has “no confidence” Sessions would do that.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, GOP and Democratic senators clashed over the nomination of charter school activist and wealthy Republican donor Betsy DeVos as education secretary.

As the Senate Health, Education, Pensions and Labor Committee prepares to vote Tuesday on DeVos’ nomination, Chairman Lamar Alexander lamented Democrats’ fierce opposition to President Donald Trump’s pick.

He said he respects his colleagues and doesn’t question their motives or votes but thinks “their concerns are misplaced.”

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington State, the top Democrat on the committee said it was clear that DeVos is “the wrong choice.”

Murray charged that DeVos has spent her family’s wealth to push “extreme anti-student ideology” siphoning money away from public schools “toward taxpayer funded private school vouchers, with little accountability, for just a few.”

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday backed Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke for Interior secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry for Energy secretary.

President Donald Trump’s nominees met little resistance in the panel Tuesday morning. The committee voted 16-6 for Zinke and 16-7 for Perry.

The nominations now go to the full Senate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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