The Senate has no plans to slow down confirmation hearings for a slew of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks scheduled this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Sunday.
McConnell waved off concerns that several of Trump’s nominees have not been fully vetted for conflicts of interest yet, even as at least seven confirmation hearings are set to begin in the next few days.
McConnell’s stance on the current Cabinet picks directly contradicts the one he took in 2009. Then the Senate minority leader, McConnell insisted that President Barack Obama’s Cabinet officials meet a list of requirements, including completing their financial disclosure statements and being cleared by the Office of Government Ethics, before the Senate began their confirmation hearings.
Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, McConnell acknowledged that paperwork from the Trump nominees was “still coming in.” But he just wasn’t as concerned.
The majority leader dismissed the outcry from Democrats that procedure wasn’t being followed as little more than political sour grapes.
One day earlier, the head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub Jr., expressed alarm that his office has not had time to complete its review of some Trump nominees. In a letter to Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Shaub said that he didn’t know of a single instance in the nearly 40-year history of his office in which the Senate kicked off a confirmation hearing before the nominee had finished the ethics review process.
Shaub’s letter “makes crystal clear that the transition team’s collusion with Senate Republicans to jam through these Cabinet nominees before they’ve been thoroughly vetted is unprecedented,” Schumer said in a statement Saturday.
“[A]ll of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate.”
McConnell rejected Democrats’ criticism.
“I was in Senator Schumer’s position eight years ago. I know how it feels when you’re coming into a new situation, that the other guys won the election,” McConnell said.
He noted that the Senate had confirmed seven of Obama’s Cabinet officials on the day Obama was sworn into office, despite Republican opposition to what McConnell called “wildly liberal” nominations.
“[A]ll of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate. I understand that. But we need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that,” McConnell said.
“Face the Nation” host John Dickerson pointed out that McConnell ― in his 2016 memoir, The Long Game ― had lamented that lawmakers have “lost our sense for the value of slow and steady deliberation.”
“Yeah, most of the time that’s true,” McConnell said. “But if you’ve got a brand-new administration coming into office, you want to have, at the very least, a national security team in place on day one.”
Trump’s nominees have drawn scrutiny because they’ll make up the wealthiest Cabinet in history, a number of them lack any experience for the office they’ll run, and some have deeply entrenched histories with companies like ExxonMobil and Goldman Sachs.
This story has been updated with information about McConnell’s 2009 letter regarding Obama’s Cabinet nominees.