Senate Republicans are rumored to be planning to start conducting confirmation hearings for president-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet picks before completing background checks and ethics clearances on several of the nominees.
Several media outlets are reporting at least five of Trump’s key appointment picks are expected to be rushed through the process beginning as early as this week.
The unprecedented development and Democrats argue clear-cut flaunting of the rules has stoked the ire of many party members, who now are rumored to be planning to oppose the hastily proposed appointments any way they can, including by perhaps filibustering the proceedings.
“Cabinet officials must put our country’s interests before their own,” Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted in calling for the hearings to be postponed. “No [confirmation] hearings should be held until we’re certain that’s the case.”
Meanwhile, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) recently mailed a letter signed by Director Walter Schaub to Warren and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warning “I am not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the Senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominee had completed the ethics review process.”
With that, Schumer blasted the Trump transition team for what he deemed its attempt to ramrod through as many of Trump’s hand-picked selections with as little scrutiny and resistance as possible.
“The Office of Government Ethics 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,” he said.
Team Trump immediately dismissed all the assertions as an attempt by Democrats to politicize the process.
“In the midst of a historic election where Americans voted to drain the swamp, it is disappointing some have chosen to politicize the process in order to distract from important issues facing our country,” Trump transition team members said in a statement.
A GOP source was also quick to point out that despite all the posturing this wouldn’t be the first time OGE hasn’t had all the paperwork for a candidate before starting hearings. The source contends that in 2001 hearings for George W. Bush’s nominee for Secretary of Education Rod Paige were held before OGE received all his paperwork.
On Tuesday, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, arguably the most opposed of all Trump’s nominees, is scheduled to go before the Senate to commence hearings that could make him the nation’s next Attorney General.
Other nominees slated for quick hearings are Gen. John F. Kelly for homeland security secretary; Rex W. Tillerson for secretary of state; Betsy DeVos for education secretary; and Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, who is expected to run the C.I.A.
Among the documents OGE officials have indicated they have yet to receive for at least some of the nominees are required financial disclosures and complete clarity on “potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues.”
Shaub’s letter also detailed how the Ethics in Government Act requires that all presidential appointments confirmed by the Senate obtain OGE certification of all their financial disclosures before any congressional hearings commence. He described the process for such action as “complex” and “labor-intensive,” demanding “weeks, not days” of eagle-eyed scrutiny.
As the former CEO of Exxon Mobil and someone known to have close ties to Russia, Tillerson’s hearings is particularly attracting much attention, along with DeVos and Transportation Secretary nominee Elaine Chao.
Later in the week, hearings are slated to commence for Housing and Urban Development Secretary nominee Ben Carson and Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross.
Trump supporters insist dates for the hearings are only being expedited so that as many as the nominees as possible can be voted on and sworn as close to his official Jan. 20, swearing in as possible.
[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]