Two hearings scheduled for Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) have been pushed back after Democrats insisted the nominees go through the full ethics review that Trump’s posse has largely eschewed to date.
Education Secretary pick Betsy DeVos will now appear before Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) HELP panel on January 17. The confirmation review for Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder, originally scheduled for the 17th, has been delayed without a definite new date, according to The Atlantic.
Later on Tuesday, Republicans pushed a third hearing back by a week. Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross’ hearing before the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee was rescheduled from January 12 to January 18.
Ross, DeVos, and the fast food CEO Puzder have not completed the standard financial disclosure review process through the Office of Government Ethics (OGE). Most of Trump’s nominees have also been fast-tracked in this same way.
Democrats are frustrated, noting that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stymied Obama nominees for weeks over similar issues. On Monday, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) returned to McConnell a copy of a letter the Kentucky senator had sent to former Democratic leader Harry Reid about his process and disclosure objections, with McConnell’s name and office written in in Sharpie.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 9, 2017
DeVos’ delay was announced late Monday. News of Puzder’s broke Tuesday afternoon, as Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) Judiciary Committee was several hours into the first day of review of Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).
Sessions has given the committee incomplete responses to the standard questionnaire for nominees, declining to provide decades and decades of public comments, press clippings, and speeches outside the Senate record.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday morning before the hearing kicked off that Sessions failed to disclose some assets in his financial paperwork, although according to his own hearing testimony, his paperwork disclosed the income but failed to specify it was the result of oil production.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) preemptively defended Sessions and Grassley from process charges, pointing to “150,000 pages” of materials submitted to the committee. Yet even after a supplemental filing two weeks after his initial response, Sessions’ submissions are lacking according to a pre-hearing analysis by People for the American Way, Alliance for Justice, and the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans.
Democrats have thus far primarily focused on Sessions’ own record, although Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) forced Sessions to concede he had not personally filed as many civil and voting rights cases during his time as a prosecutor as he had previously claimed.
Ben Carson, Trump’s would-be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, has also not completed the standard ethics office review. But unlike the Ross, DeVos and Puzder picks, Carson is still scheduled to begin confirmation hearings on January 12.
Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, has been racing to put out conflict-of-interest fires ahead of his own confirmation hearing.
Staffers at OGE have warned that Republicans are rushing Trump’s nominees through without allowing adequate review of potential conflicts of interest. “ “It has left some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings,” OGE director Walter Shaub wrote in a letter to Senate leaders in both parties.
This piece has been updated to reflect the rescheduling of Wilbur Ross’ confirmation hearing.