Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee this morning boycotted scheduled votes for two of President Donald Trump's Cabinet picks, arguing the nominees lied to the committee about their business or investment dealings.
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The move seemed to take Republicans on the committee by surprise and stalled the confirmation process for Trump's nominees for secretary of health and human services, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., and for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin.
The panel's chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, called his Democratic colleagues "idiots."
Hatch told reporters he was blindsided by the move and that it showed a breakdown of "decorum" in the upper chamber of Congress. "It is really the rudest thing I have ever seen," he said in a Capitol hallway this morning. "I think my colleagues on the other side will wise up ... All I can say is I am very disappointed."
Asked about Democrats' concerns about the two nominees, he replied, "Give me a break."
Moment before, speaking to reporters in the same hallway, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, accused the two Cabinet nominees of having "out and out lied" to the committee and said he was greatly concerned that Hatch was asking the committee to vote today without more information on them. He held a printout of an article in The Columbus Post-Dispatch this week that argues Mnuchin "misled" the Senate about the mortgage practices of a bank he helped run.
"We are not going to this committee today because we want the committee to regroup, get the information, have these two nominees come back in front of the committee, clarify what they lied about. And I hope they'd apologize about that," Brown said.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the ranking member of the Finance Committee, cited a different story about Price, calling into question whether Price benefited from knowledge he had as a legislator working on health care issues when making stock trades. He has disputed these allegations.
"The congressman has insisted that he didn't get special access to a special deal. Now we have reports that the company says otherwise ... an indicator that [Price] didn't tell the truth," Wyden said. "At a minimum, I believe the committee should postpone this vote so we have an opportunity to talk to the company officials."