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Democrats United In Opposition To Virtually All Remaining Trump Cabinet Nominees

Capitol Building Dusk

For the most part, President Trump has had an easy go of it in getting his Cabinet nominees confirmed, with nominees for State, Defense, and several other departments being easily confirmed by the Senate with broad bipartisan support. As The Washington Post reports, though, that’s about to end:

Virtually all Democratic senators are expected to vote against President Trump’s picks to lead the departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury and his top budget nominee — a historic rebuke of a first-term president’s top Cabinet nominees.

The Senate is scheduled to continue confirming Trump’s Cabinet nominees this week, with a vote scheduled for Tuesday to approve Betsy DeVos, nominated to run the Education Department. Senators are poised to confirm Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to serve as the next attorney general by the end of the week.

But those votes are expected to happen with little, if any Democratic support. Only Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has announced plans to support Sessions. As of Monday, no Democrat has announced support for DeVos, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), nominated to lead the health and human sevrices department, or Steven T. Mnuchin, nominated as treasury secretary. They all are scheduled for up-or-down votes in the coming days.

Near-unanimous opposition to a first-term president’s Cabinet picks is rare and hasn’t happened in recent history. But it comes amid a growing furor among progressive groups calling on Democratic lawmakers to oppose all of Trump’s nominees and policies. A CNN poll released on Sunday showed that just 59 percent of Democrats approve of their party’s leaders, a sign that diehard partisans want lawmakers to serve as a more aggressive check on Trump.

On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) predicted that “If not total unanimity, we’re going to have near Democratic unity in opposing the remaining nominees for President Trump’s cabinet. This unity makes clear just how bad this cabinet would be for America’s middle class and those struggling to get there, and bodes well for the major battles ahead, including over the Affordable Care Act.”

Opposition to labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder; Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), tapped to lead the Office of Management and Budget; and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency remains firm, but the final whip count is less certain, aides said. Votes on those nominees are not scheduled for a few more weeks — indeed, Puzder hasn’t been scheduled yet for a confirmation hearing.

Democrats announced in January that they would target eight Trump Cabinet nominees on the basis of their policy positions or lack of government experience. Only one of the eight, Rex Tillerson, has been confirmed so far — but he was the first secretary of state nominee in U.S. history to ever have to clear various procedural hurdles before a final vote.

Ultimately, all of Trump’s nominees eventually will be confirmed if Republicans hold together to support them. But several Democratic senators and senior aides predicted in recent days that all, if not most of the 48-member caucus would vote en masse against the eight Trump nominees.

Schumer’s declaration came as Democrats launched a last-ditch attempt to oppose DeVos by announcing they will continue to speak out against her nomination through the overnight hours until the vote is held on Tuesday afternoon.

In some cases, it seems clear that the near unanimous opposition is motivated by a desire to cater to pressure from the Democratic Party’s base voters at a time when the party is still struggling to right itself after the body blow of losing the Presidential election and failing to make any significant gains in down-ballot elections. Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, for example, is heavily opposed by teacher’s unions due to her support for initiatives such as school choice, charter schools, and more thorough testing for teachers currently protected by tenure provisions and, of course, teacher’s unions are an important part of the Democratic base across the country. The opposition of unions to the DeVos nomination also appears to explain why two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, have announced their opposition to DeVos’s nomination since both Senators are among the few leading Republicans who are recipients of donations from those unions over the years. As a result, Republican will be forced to rely on Vice-President Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote to confirm DeVos, the first time in American history that a Vice-President’s vote will be necessary to break a tie in the confirmation of a Cabinet nominee. The situation is similar with respect to other Trump nominees, such as Scott Pruitt, who is up for nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is heavily opposed by environmentalist groups, another important part of the Democratic base. In addition to this kind of focused opposition to specific nominees, Democrats in the Senate appear to be responding to their base’s general antipathy to Trump and their desire that the leadership do something, anything to oppose him even if it is ultimately fruitless. Voting against Cabinet nominees that will otherwise be confirmed thanks to GOP majority control of the Senate is a standard way for the minority party to do that, and this is especially true now that Senate rules provide that Executive Branch appointees cannot be stopped via the 60-vote rule.

Ordinarily, of course, Cabinet appointments don’t receive this kind of controversy because the general attitude is that Presidents are entitled to the team of advisers that they chose and that nominees should only be rejected if there is something in their record that indicates that they are not appropriate for the position to which they’re being named. In the entire history of the United States, in fact, there have only been nine Cabinet nominees who have been rejected by the Senate, with the most recent being John Tower who was initially selected by President George H.W. Bush to be Secretary of Defense but quickly came under question due to a history of alcoholism and other personal allegations. In addition to those nine, there have also been thirteen Cabinet nominees whose names have been withdrawn before the Senate could vote, in some cases due to some controversy or allegation against them that developed after they were named but in others simply because they decided to withdraw their name. It’s rare then that we see such blanket opposition to Cabinet appointments and, sadly, just another sign of how politically polarized Washington has become and is likely to stay for the foreseeable future.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    …nominees should only be rejected if there is something in their record that indicates that they are not appropriate for the position to which they’re being named.

    The Ed Sec, DeVos, appears to be a Christian reconstructionist, completely ignorant in her field, and hostile to public schools. The AG, Sessions, was previously rejected from a judgeship for racism. Price appears to have indulged in insider trading and lied about it in his hearing. Mnuchin for Treasury is one of the banksters from The Big Short who cheated on foreclosure rules and in his disclosures forgot to mention 95M$ of real estate and a role in an offshore hedge fund. The Labor Secretary, Pudzer, hates Labor. And I thought he was pulling out?

    Is it possible that there’s more than usual objection at least partly because Trump’s nominees are sleazier and less qualified than usual?

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  2. DrDaveT says:

    The standard statement from Dem Senators in this should be:

    If President Obama had nominated this person, not only would Republicans have been united in declaring [him/her] unqualified, they would have proclaimed it conclusive evidence that Mr. Obama was unfit to govern. For once, we agree.

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  3. reid says:

    Never have we seen so many incompetents and extremists nominated to the highest levels of government. DeVos, Perry…? Appalling ignorance. That’s the problem, not the unprecedented opposition.

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  4. JKB says:

    If it be war they want, let it be war they suffer.

    Those who are held up should simply be brought on a “czars” at the WH then assigned to oversee the now leaderless departments. As their will, will be the President’s will…

    For decades the Left have been playing for keeps. The Right have been playing for mercy. With Trump, those Red State types — “progressively” deprived of elementary freedoms, of their dignity, and even of their livelihoods — have voted to play for keeps, too. They were used to shrugging and taking their lumps, from politicians they happened to despise. The politicians were used to administering the lumps, to their own fabulous enrichment. Suddenly the simpletons — or deplorables, as they now prefer — decide they’ve had enough. (Americans can be like that sometimes.)

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  5. Tim D. says:

    For the record, Tillerson didn’t get “broad bipartisan support.” He got the most no votes of any Sec State in US history (56-43).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. DrDaveT says:

    @JKB:

    For decades the Left have been playing for keeps. The Right have been playing for mercy.

    HA HA HA HA HA ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha… Ha ha ha. (wheeze) Heeheehee ha ha whoo. Hee hee. (gasp)

    Stop it man; you’re killing me.

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  7. James Pearce says:

    @JKB:

    Those who are held up should simply be brought on a “czars” at the WH then assigned to oversee the now leaderless departments.

    Shouldn’t it be “царь” and not “czar” though?

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  8. CB says:

    Good.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Monala says:

    @JKB: Care to expound on the freedoms and dignity the Left has supposedly deprived the Red States of? And while some have in fact lost their livelihoods, that suffering isn’t exclusive to the Red States, nor can you lay the fault for it on the Left.

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  10. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @JKB: What planet do you live on? Wa!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Gustopher says:

    Well, to be fair, the remaining Trump cabinet nominees are a bunch of wankers. They are insane, nihilistic stunt nominations.

    I tend to think that the President — any President — should be able to select their advisors and administrators, so long as they are somewhere in the mainstream and reasonably qualified. I don’t think Trump’s nominees meet that low bar.

    An EPA nominee that is currently suing the EPA.
    An Energy nominee that wanted to abolish the Department of Energy, before he (recently) learned what it does
    An Education nominee who cannot answer basic questions about education
    A HUD nominee who has, admittedly, lived in housing, but has no relevent experience

    And the list goes on.

    These are terrible nominees. They should be opposed. They are nominees carefully chosen to be objectionable. If you shuffle the cabinet, there is no loss of relevant knowledge or expertise. Why not DeVos for EPA, Energy or HUD?

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  12. dxq says:

    Price appears to have indulged in insider trading and lied about it in his hearing.

    No. Price got a friends-and-family deal in a private placement investment. That’s totally legit and happens all the time. Problem is, he lied and said it was a deal available to anyone. It was a dumb lie, because there’s nothing wrong with what he did. But it was an invitation-only offer, it wasn’t available to the general public.

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  13. SKI says:

    Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, for example, is heavily opposed by teacher’s unions due to her support for initiatives such as school choice, charter schools, and more thorough testing for teachers currently protected by tenure provisions and, of course, teacher’s unions are an important part of the Democratic base across the country.

    You really don’t read the comments do you? Opposition to DeVos is principally based on her bring completely unqualified for the job, not knowing literally anything about most of its core aspects and being profoundly dangerous to kids with special needs.

    Her sole qualification is that she is a wealthy heiress who has made large donations.

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  14. cian says:

    I think most of us by now are aware that these are not normal times, and yet Doug continues to write posts as if we are witnessing just another messy political rumble in a time of hyper partisan infighting. The realities that have shaped the political life of the country are slowly falling apart. When you have a President of the United States comparing Putin’s Russia favourably to our own system of government in order to excuse the killing of political rivals and journalists, you know we have reached a point where either we confront the moment as if the life of the nation were at stake, or continue the long sleepwalk into a world where the only accountability allowed is that which the new financial and political elite deem appropriate. Challenging the appointees of a deeply flawed, irrational and blatantly dishonest President backed by unaccountable advisors with documented ties to the extreme right is not just wise but a patriotic duty.

    In his summation of the democrats objections to DeVos, Doug leaves out her history of working against what most reasonable people would describe as the long established norms of the American educational system. He makes no mention of her and her families well documented support of far right organisations who champion conversion therapy and creationism, and her refusal to support the teaching of Science and climate change, citing the old canard of ‘critical thinking’ to avoid a straight forward answer. He fails to mention her long fight against oversight of Charter Schools with her family spending $1.45 million in Michigan to fight its introduction. A cabinet appointee to education who has fought oversight of education and Doug doesn’t think this is worth mentioning. She will be in charge of the public school system and yet she has spent her working life trying to undermine it in order to shift tax payers money to the private sector in which her family has substantial investments.

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  15. C. Clavin says:

    OT…
    The target of Trumps botched raid on Yemen is now taunting the orange-faced comb-over.

    “The fool of the White House got slapped at the beginning of his road in your lands,” al-Rimi says in a recording released Sunday. Military sources told NBC they believe it’s authentic.

    Additionally it appears Trump was taunted into the raid to begin with.

    Trump was told by Defense Secretary James Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that his capture would be a “game changer,” according to a senior White House official with direct knowledge of the discussions.
    In making their case, they told Trump that they doubted that the Obama administration would have been bold enough to try it, this official said.

    Emphasis mine.
    This is how WW3 begins…

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  16. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @SKI: Don’t forget her commitment to draining all of those nasty public schools out of the swamp. That’s important, too.

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  17. Tyrell says:

    I am not impressed with this Education Dept. nominee, Devo. The head of any education department; state or federal, should have at least ten years of teaching experience in a public school. They need to be someone who has walked the talk, brought home the fish, and strung the bow. Too many school systems are being ran by administrators and politicians who have not been in classrooms, and won’t dare go in one. I also have had reservations about the Department of Education. Most of the time it has had an adversial relationship with the schools. It has increased regulations and useless paperwork on teachers.

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  18. Pch101 says:

    @Monala:

    Care to expound on the freedoms and dignity the Left has supposedly deprived the Red States of?

    The freedom to practice Jim Crow and use racial slurs in polite company.

    The freedom to impose their version of Protestantism on everyone.

    The freedom to treat gay people as second-class citizens.

    The conservative definition of “freedom” is the right to prevent those who they dislike from being free.

    A day that they can’t refer to Mexicans as wetback rapists or Muslims as terrorists is like a week without sunshine. Instead, they are forced to endure the oppression of “political correctness,” i.e. common courtesy.

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  19. Surreal American says:

    @Tyrell:

    I am not impressed with this Education Dept. nominee, Devo

    Not a fan of bringing de-evolution into the classroom, are we?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRguZr0xCOc

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  20. Tyrell says:

    @Pch101: Baseless, empty accusations that sound like some left wing college propaganda.

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  21. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Tyrell:
    @Pch101:
    Obviously he was attempting to be pithy…but baseless?
    I’m afraid not Tyrell. You seem as un-tethered from reality as our so-called president.
    Jim Crow: Higher rates of incarceration for people of color, laws aimed directly at suppressing minority voting, racial profiling, etc.
    Protestantism: Hobby Lobby. Enough said.
    Treating Gay people as second class citizens: Wedding Cake controversies.
    Conservative definition of “freedom”: Religious Freedom arguments that boil down to imposing their views on others. See also; Hobby Lobby
    Refering to Mexicans as wetback rapists or Muslims as terrorists: One need only look back on the most recent Republican Campaign which Trump began by calling all Mexicans rapists, or look to the recent Muslim Ban in the courts today.
    Sorry Tyrell…you are wrong again.

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  22. CSK says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Hindsight is always 20-20, but, looking back, I think Trump won the election the day he called Mexicans rapists and murderers.

    I didn’t believe such a thing would be possible, and I’m grieved that it was.

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  23. al-Alameda says:

    The Senate is scheduled to continue confirming Trump’s Cabinet nominees this week, with a vote scheduled for Tuesday to approve Betsy DeVos, nominated to run the Education Department.

    I do understand the notion that a president should be able to get the cabinet he/she wants, however I’m also of the opinion that the bar is set higher than “breathes oxygen, and gave a lot of money to preferred political candidates.”

    I know it’s quaint but, I think a Cabinet nominee should have at the minimum demonstrated professional accomplishment and if not full technical knowledge of the issues facing his/her department, at the very least a strong informed knowledge of the salient issues and an awareness of the broader public interest that must be served.

    Betsy DeVos is so deficient in those areas enumerated above that I cannot understand why no more than 2 Republican senators have declared non-support. McCain and Graham style themselves as mavericks, I guess we’ll see just how emasculated McCain isa?

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  24. Rick DeMent says:

    DeVos is bing opposed becase she simply doesn’t know the first thing about education policy. These are basic issues that could affect students in any school setting be it public, private, charter or otherwise. Her business credentials don’t extend any further then, married to a rich guy, and her ability to lead a large orginazation is unknown becase she has never done it.

    Even if she loved teachers unions, and public schools she would wholly unfit for the job. To belive otherwise it to be divorced from reality.

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  25. Pch101 says:

    @CSK:

    I think Trump won the election the day he called Mexicans rapists and murderers.

    No, most of the bigot vote would have been cast for the Republican, regardless of who it was.

    The situation is actually worse. Not enough of the other Republicans were willing to jump ship in order to stop it. The defection rates of those who were registered Republicans on election day were on the higher end of normal. Trump may not been seen as good, but he was apparently good enough, which should tell you something.

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  26. Neil Hudelson says:

    Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, for example, is heavily opposed by teacher’s unions due to her support for initiatives such as school choice, charter schools, and more thorough testing for teachers currently protected by tenure provisions and, of course, teacher’s unions are an important part of the Democratic base across the country.

    Opposition to DeVos is so vociferous that all previously set switchboard records have been smashed.

    And you think this is not because our support for teachers, students, or public education, but because of our support for teachers’ unions.

    Really.

    Let me guess–our opposition to Pruitt at the EPA not because we want to protect the environment but because we want to kill coal jobs?

    And we don’t want Perry at Energy because we hate Texans, not because of our desire to escape nuclear meltdown?

    Your Progressive Derangement Syndrome is showing.

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  27. cian says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Doug has fallen into the trap of thinking the dots don’t connect. Education is critical to the future of the far right’s agenda, and the leader in all but name of the far right is now sitting in an office two doors down from the most easily manipulated President we have ever had. Any choice these people make is the wrong choice for democracy.

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  28. JKB says:

    And yet Trump just got his preferred Secretary of Education

    The main target of Democrat obstruction.

    America’s school children won one today.

    What is freedom, if you have no choice in your education?
    Freedom of thought, the rarest of all the freedoms inherent to all people.

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  29. al-Alameda says:

    @JKB:

    And yet Trump just got his preferred Secretary of Education
    The main target of Democrat obstruction.
    America’s school children won one today.
    What is freedom, if you have no choice in your education?
    Freedom of thought, the rarest of all the freedoms inherent to all people.

    Well, that’s very interesting, because Ms. DeVos is opposed to requiring any accountability for the grant of public monies (aka vouchers) to non-public schools.

    Why do you think that that is good? Why should private non-public schools not be held accountable for their use of public monies?

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