Washington – Some of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees for cabinet positions may not be able to win Senate approval, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Thursday.
“At the risk of sounding naïve,” Blumenthal said, Democratric members of the Senate, with help from a few Republicans, “could potentially block some candidates.”
The GOP will hold a 52-48 advantage over the Democrats in the Senate next year, counting the two independent senators who caucus and nearly always vote with Democrats. So Democrats would need concurrence from at least three Republicans to defeat a nominee.
Still, that can be done, Blumenthal said.
Top choices drawing fire from Senate Democrats are Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Trump’s choice for attorney general; and Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., nominated to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. But as Trump continues to announce candidates for his cabinet and for top White House positions, the list is growing.
Blumenthal is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold a hearing and must vote in support of Sessions’ nomination before the Senate holds a confirmation vote.
He and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have been among the most vocal critics of Trump’s choices for his cabinet.
Of Labor Department nominee Andy Putzer, CEO of a company that owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardees, Murphy said, “It’s as if the president-elect went out and looked for the business owner with the worst record of violating federal labor laws and put him in charge of those laws.”
“It’s hard to imagine a worse nominee for the Department of Labor,” Murphy said. “I won’t support him, and I challenge Republicans of good conscience to explain why someone like this, who proudly opposes workers’ rights, should be put in charge of the very agency that Congress has charged with protecting workers.”
As a member of the Senate Health, Education , Labor and Pensions Committee, Murphy will have a chance to grill Putzer during his confirmation hearing.
Democratic strategy is to put Trump’s nominees through a grinding confirmation process and delay confirmations by insisting on a full public airing of each candidate — a move that would slow-walk the nominees.
Eight years ago, on the day President Obama assumed office, a Democratic-led Senate quickly confirmed seven cabinet nominees because Republican leaders agreed to voice votes.
Trump won’t get the same treatment, Blumenthal said.
He said the president-elect’s nominees need “much more scrutiny.”
“Having all of these hearings before the inaugural in a thorough and fair fashion seems very difficult to do,” Blumenthal said.
He said the process – and Democratic insistence of recorded votes on each nominee – could push the process into February – or later.
That would hurt Trump’s ability to fulfill his “first 100 day” agenda.
In slowing consideration of Trump’s cabinet picks, some Democrats say they are taking a page from the GOP’s playbook.
Republicans failed to act on the candidacy of Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court.
“They’ve been rewarded for stealing a Supreme Court justice. We’re going to help them confirm their nominees, many of whom are unqualified?” asked Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
Blumenthal also joined Sen. Jean Shaheen, D-N.H., — both are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee — in asking the Obama administration to review Mike Flynn’s security clearance, saying Trump’s choice for national security adviser “reportedly has a record of mishandling classified intelligence.”
The Democrats Wednesday released a letter they wrote to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey and the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, Beth Cobert. It asks the officials to investigate the retired general’s record of safeguarding classified information during his career in the Army and as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“He was investigated for leaking highly classified information to several other countries and recently made public comments defending and encouraging such illegal practices,” the senators wrote. “He is also reported to have knowingly provided highly sensitive compartmented information and code word classified information about the Haqqani terrorist network to Pakistan.”
The letter also cites Flynn’s ties to Russia — he attended a dinner in Moscow with Vladimir Putin last year.
Blumenthal said a speedy and thorough investigation of Flynn is needed because his position in the White House does not require Senate confirmation.
He said Flynn, whose consulting firm has lobbied on behalf of Turkish businesses, “continues to have conflicts of interest.” Blumenthal also said “there will be more” information about Flynn “in the next week or so.”