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Senate Republicans suspend committee rules to advance Treasury, HHS nominees


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Senate Republicans suspend committee rules to advance Treasury, HHS nominees

Following a Democratic boycott of the Senate Finance Committee's vote on President Donald Trump's nominees to lead the Treasury and Department of Health and Human Services, Republicans pushed through nominations of Steven Mnuchin and Tom Price by suspending committee rules requiring a member of the opposition to be in the room.

With only Republicans present in the voting chamber, the committee passed Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary and Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services by a 14-0 vote. The move required Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to get unanimous consent in suspending a rule requiring a one-third quorum and at least one member from the opposite party to be present for any committee business.

Hatch later told reporters that the Senate parliamentarian said the move was "proper procedure," and said the committee had to move using "unprecedented" actions due to the Democrats' "pathetic" protest.

"They don't have one argument that's worthwhile," Hatch said. "Not one. And if they had, they should've shown up yesterday and made their arguments."

Shortly before a scheduled vote on Jan. 31, Democrats skipped the committee meeting, instead holding a press conference in the Senate hallway detailing their discontent over ethics issues for Tom Price and allegations of foreclosures by Mnuchin's former company.

"Until questions are answered, Democrats believe the committee should not move forward with either nomination," Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., wrote in a statement Jan. 31.

The minority side of the committee has yet to respond to the hurried vote, although Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, tweeted an explanation for the Democratic absence: "Where are the [Senate Finance] Dems this morning? Standing with the ppl of OH and others hurt by the abusive practices of Mnuchin's bank."

Mnuchin and Price will now face a full Senate vote. Hatch said Jan. 31 that it's possible the Democrats could delay a vote again on the full chamber floor.

"Steven is looking forward to the vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate and is eager to get to work on behalf of the American people," Mnuchin spokesperson Barney Keller said in a statement.