WASHINGTON ― President-elect Donald Trump and Senate Republicans are rushing Cabinet nominees with murky backgrounds through an inadequate vetting process, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday.
“This is a swamp Cabinet full of bankers and billionaires ― a swamp Cabinet,” Schumer told reporters on Capitol Hill after Democrats met to discuss the status of hearings on Trump’s top advisers.
“It’s no surprise Republicans are trying to rush through these hearings,” Schumer said. “They don’t want the public to know the true views of their nominees, the potential conflicts of interest, just how many of them come from the top 1 percent and are even billionaires.”
Because Democrats changed the rules for confirmations a little more than three years ago so that just 51 votes are needed, there’s not much party leaders can do about their complaints. But Schumer vowed to tie up controversial appointments during Senate floor debates.
“If Senate Republicans aren’t willing to give the American people a chance to examine and consider these nominees in full and fair hearings, then they should be prepared for that debate on the floor ― extensive debate on the floor,” he said.
They don’t want the public to know the true views of their nominees, the potential conflicts of interest, just how many of them come from the top 1 percent and are even billionaires. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Democrats especially highlighted news that Trump’s choice to run the Office of Management and the Budget, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), did not paid taxes on a nanny from 2000 to 2004. Democratic appointees have gone down over similar issues in past years ― Zoe Baird from the Clinton administration belatedly admitted to not paying nanny taxes, and Tom Daschle belatedly paid taxes for a car and driver his employer gave him.
Trump’s transition office said Mulvaney discovered last month that he hadn’t paid taxes for his nanny, but he has paid them now.
Still, Schumer was not satisfied.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Schumer said. “If failure to pay taxes is disqualifying for Democratic nominees, the exact same thing should be true for Republican nominees.”
Other Senate Democrats weren’t as quick to say the tax oversight was enough to make Mulvaney ineligible for the OMB job.
Asked if such revelations are disqualifying for a Cabinet nominee, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, “Well, it was at one time.”
John Czwartacki, a Trump spokesman, said the president-elect “fully stands behind” Mulvaney.
“In typical partisan attack dog fashion, Senator Schumer has proven himself a complete hypocrite,” Czwartacki said in an email, pointing to then-President-elect Barack Obama’s nomination of Timothy Geithner for Treasury secretary.
Geithner came under similar scrutiny during his confirmation process when it was revealed that he hadn’t paid all of his taxes while working at the International Monetary Fund. He was ultimately confirmed.
Schumer said at the time that Geithner’s failure to pay taxes “was not something that ought to prevent his nomination,” Czwartacki noted.
“The fact of the matter is that nobody is more qualified and more prepared to fight to rein in Washington spending and fight for taxpayers than Mick Mulvaney,” Czwartacki said.
But Democrats insist that the situation with Trump’s nominees is different.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like this because we’ve never had so many billionaires in one room in my life,” Durbin said. “That creates real problems when it comes to vetting.”
Schumer, joined by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), scolded Republicans for rushing Democrats through hearings and moving forward before all background paperwork had been submitted.
Senators are still waiting on paperwork from Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who came under fire during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Republicans only allowed one round of questioning for DeVos, and scheduled the hearing late in the day.
Democrats tore into Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, over ethics concerns. Price admitted on Wednesday that he decided to buy stock in an Australian biotech firm after learning about it from Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), a board member of that company.
There are nine nominees that still trouble Democrats, Schumer said. He plans to press Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for more time to review and question them.
Barring an agreement with McConnell to slow down the process, Democrats don’t have much leverage. They would need to stay united and sway some Republicans to block any of the nominees.
“The bottom line is it will take some courage of some Republicans to join us ― only two or three on many of these nominees ― to defeat them,” Schumer said.