Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday boycotted votes on President Donald Trump’s picks for Treasury secretary and secretary of health and human services, opening up a new front in the battle over the president’s Cabinet.
Not a single Democratic senator on the committee showed up for the votes on Steve Mnuchin or Tom Price, boycotting because of what they considered to be unanswered questions regarding Mnuchin’s and Price’s business dealings.
The 26-person committee, with 14 Republicans and 12 Democrats, needed at least one Democrat to be in attendance for a vote to proceed.
“I think some of this is because they just don’t like the president,” said the head of the committee, GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. “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.”
Hatch also called the boycott “one of the most alarming things I have seen in my whole 40 years in the Senate” and said Democrats should “stop posturing and acting like idiots.”
According to The Hill, Republicans conducted a similar walkout during a 2013 confirmation for Obama’s EPA nominee Gina McCarthy.
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio said at an impromptu press conference in the hallway outside the committee’s meeting room that Mnuchin and Price “lied” about business dealings in front of the committee.
“We’re not going to this committee meeting today because we want the committee to regroup, get the information, have these two nominees come back in front of the committee, clarify what they lied about – I would hope they would apologize about that – and then give us all the information we need for our states,” Brown said.
Republicans on the committee showed up for the vote and one by one expressed displeasure with the boycott by Democrats.
During their hearings, both Mnuchin and Price have faced questions from lawmakers over their previous business dealings.
Price had numerous investments in healthcare-related stocks while drafting legislation with the potential to influence the healthcare sector. Additionally, an investment in an Australian pharmaceutical company was called into question as a possible violation of the Stock Act, which governs investments from congressional members.
Price told the committee that the investment into the Australian company, Innate Immunotherapeutics, was available to all investors. A report from The Wall Street Journal, however, found that his investment was through a private offering in the US available to fewer than 20 Americans. It was available to all investors in Australian and New Zealand.
Mnuchin was attacked for failing to disclose nearly $100 million in assets – mostly real-estate holdings – and directorships at offshore entities related to his hedge fund, Dune Capital Management. Additionally, Democrats called out foreclosure activities by OneWest Bank, a mortgage lender owned by a group led by Mnuchin.
Mnuchin said during testimony that OneWest had not used so-called robosigning for foreclosure documents, but an investigation by the Columbus Dispatch showed that such automation was used for at least some loans in Ohio.
Offices of Democratic members of the committee didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.