Democrats boycott Senate committee votes on Price, Mnuchin
Senate Democrats on Tuesday boycotted a committee vote on two of President Trump’s top Cabinet nominees -- Tom Price to lead Health and Human Services and Steve Mnuchin to be Treasury secretary.
Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) blasted the move as he sat in a hearing room with only Republicans on the dais.
“They ought to be embarrassed. It’s the most pathetic treatment I’ve seen in my 40 years in the United States Senate,” Hatch said.
“I think they should stop posturing and acting like idiots,” he said.
At least one Democrat needs to be present for the committee to vote on the nominations, Hatch said. He recessed the hearing until further notice, saying he hoped a vote could take place later Tuesday.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the committee’s top Democrat, said Price and Mnuchin “have misled the public and held back important information about their backgrounds.”
“Until questions are answered, Democrats believe the committee should not move forward with either nomination,” Wyden said.
“This is about getting answers to questions, plain and simple,” he said. “Ethics laws are not optional, and nominees do not have a right to treat disclosure like a shell game.”
Democrats have said Mnuchin, a wealthy Wall Street executive, misled the committee in his response to a written question about foreclosures at Pasadena’s OneWest Bank while he ran it from 2009-15.
Democrats pointed to a report Sunday by the Columbus Dispatch that Mnuchin denied that OneWest engaged in so-called robo-signing of mortgage documents.
The paper said its analysis of nearly four dozen foreclosure cases in Ohio’s Franklin County in 2010 showed that the bank “frequently used robo-signers.”
The Columbus Dispatch cited a foreclosure involving a mortgage signed by Erica Johnson-Seck, a OneWest vice president who said in a deposition in a 2009 Florida case that she signed an average of 750 documents a week.
Barney Keller, a spokesman for Mnuchin, said Monday that several courts had dismissed cases involving allegations of robo-signing by Johnson-Seck.
“The media is picking on a hardworking bank employee whose reputation has been maligned but whose work has been upheld by numerous courts all around the country in the face of scurrilous and false allegations,” Keller said.
Democrats also have problems with Price, a six-term congressman and former orthopedic surgeon who has distinguished himself in conservative circles for his staunch opposition to the Affordable Care Act and his plans to slash federal healthcare spending.
His nomination has become among Trump’s most controversial, in part because of his hostility to government safety net programs, including Medicaid and Medicare.
Democrats have also been increasingly critical of Price’s extensive trading in healthcare stocks while he has been in Congress, and in some cases while he has pushed legislation that would benefit his portfolio.
Price has denied any wrongdoing.
Also drawing criticism is Price’s purchase of discounted shares in an Australian biotech firm, Innate Immunotherapeutics, which he was offered through a private deal not available to general shareholders.
Price also denied that this was improper, and Senate Republicans have rallied to his side, saying he did not violate any ethics rules.
8:00 a.m.: This post has been updated with additional information and background.
8:07 a.m.: This post has been updated with additional information.
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