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Senate Dems plan to block two Trump nominees with a surprising maneuver
Surrounded by empty seats, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) confers with an aide during a committee meeting to vote on the nominations of cabinet nominees Tom Price and Steve Mnuchin, on Capitol Hill Tuesday. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Senate Dems plan to block two Trump nominees with a surprising maneuver

Democrats in the Senate Finance Committee are boycotting the confirmations of President Donald Trump's nominees to helm the Treasury Department and the Department of Health and Human Services. In this case, the boycott may not be merely a symbolic gesture, but might actually prevent the committee from voting on the nominations under current Senate rules.

The Senate committee was slated to vote Tuesday on former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) for secretary of HHS. However, the panel requires at least one Democrat be present in order to conduct the vote.

"I'm very disappointed in this type of crap," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said. "I mean, my gosh, there's no excuse for it."

He went on to call the move "one of the most alarming things I have seen in my whole 40 years in the Senate." Hatch has been a member of Congress since 1977. He said Democrats know the nominations will advance and are just choosing to delay the inevitable.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, explained outside the chamber that the reason Democrats are boycotting the confirmations is because they still have unanswered questions for Price and Mnuchin.

However, Hatch believes the Democrats, whom he said should "stop posturing and acting like idiots," are just pulling this stunt because they don't like President Donald Trump.

"I think some of this is because they just don't like the president," he said, according to Business Insider. "They have a right not to like the president, I happen to like the president very, very much. ... But they really shouldn't treat dignified people who are willing to sacrifice to serve in the government."

Democrats have raised concerns about Mnuchin's past dealings with the controversial OneWest Bank's foreclosure practices. Under Mnuchin's leadership, there were allegedly some 36,000 foreclosures.

And when it comes to Price, Democrats have questions about the Georgia congressman's investments in several health care-related stocks while he was sponsoring legislation that would have a direct impact on those shares. Over the past four years, Price has traded more than $300,000 in shares in health industry stocks.

Republicans, though, said Democrats' concerns were not enough to stop the nominations of two candidates they see as qualified.

There are 26 members — 14 Republican and 12 Democrat — on the Senate Finance Committee. Only one Democrat needs to show up for the confirmation to advance.

This is not the first time Democrats have blocked a Republican majority from proceeding by refusing to take their seats and thus denying Republicans a quorum. In 2003, 11 Democrats in the Texas House of Representativesliterally fled the state for weeks in order to prevent a redistricting plan favored by Republicans. Eventually, one of them returned and the redistricting plan was passed. More recently, in 2011,Wisconsin Democrats fled to Illinois for three weeks to avoid a vote on Republican Gov. Scott Walker's budget bill because of provisions that were opposed by Wisconsin unions. However, the GOP-controlled legislature defeated the Democrats' maneuvers by separating these bills from the budget and passing them separately.

It is unclear what action the Republican Senate plans to take in response to the Democrats' boycott, or if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will simply bring the nominations to the floor immediately, without a recommendation from the Finance Committee.

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