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Senate Democrats block vote on HHS, Treasury nominees

Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee blocked a vote on President Donald Trump's nominees to lead the Treasury and the Department of Health and Human Services. The votes were scheduled for the morning of Jan. 31.

None of the 12 Democratic members of the committee reported to the executive session scheduled for 10 a.m., where Tom Price and Steven Mnuchin were to be voted on for positions as Health and Human Services secretary and Treasury secretary, respectively.

The Treasury secretary vote was originally scheduled for a late session Jan. 30, which Democrats also delayed in the hours leading up to the meeting.

The last-minute block left GOP members in a half-empty hearing room, where the senators took time to air their disappointment over the boycott.

"It's not only ridiculous, it's offensive," said Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "We give them every chance to participate in the hearings."

Speaking to reporters, Hatch said the notion that Democrats needed to question the nominees further was "bull." He added that he was confident the committee would ultimately "get these people through." He also didn't rule out the possibility that Democrats could delay the full Senate floor vote whenever it occurs.

The committee's ranking member, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., tweeted that "the litany of ethics revelations regarding [Tom Price] are strong evidence that he cannot be allowed to have control of Medicare." On Mnuchin, Wyden tweeted that he "continued to fail to come clean on shady foreclosure practices that hurt Americans."

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., called the delay an "obstruction" and criticized the Democrats for blocking Trump's ability to assemble his cabinet.

The votes on both positions have not been rescheduled yet.

"I hope they'll come to their senses," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

Barney Keller, a spokesperson for Mnuchin, said in an emailed statement, "Steven Mnuchin has repeatedly and comprehensively responded to all requests by the committee. ... He hopes the Senate will vote on him as soon as possible."