Dems seek more vetting for Trump nominees before hearings

Senate Democrats want to put confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet appointments on ice until the picks have turned over vetting documents to congressional committees. 
“The United States Senate has a rich, bipartisan tradition of vetting nominees to the President’s Cabinet. We hope to continue that tradition with our colleagues in the Republican Majority because the American people are entitled to a fair and open consideration process for all executive nominations,” said a joint statement Thursday by 16 Democrats who will be ranking members of Senate committees next year.
The Democrats’ conditions for allowing a nominee to move forward include turning over financial disclosure forms, ethics agreements, passing an FBI background check and satisfying “reasonable requests for additional information,” as well as giving lawmakers time to review the information. 
{mosads}The New York Times reported this week that gathering financial information from Trump’s Cabinet picks was going “arduously slow” even though the GOP wants to confirm many of the selections on the first day of the new administration. 
Democrats face an uphill battle to block Trump’s picks, who will only need a simple majority to clear the upper chamber. Republicans will have a 52-seat majority next year, and red-state Democrats in tough 2018 reelection races could also break ranks.
But Democrats have pledged to put the nominees through the gantlet, including trying to change Senate rules next year to require them to hand over three years of tax returns. 
Democrats argue the change is important, in part, because Trump has refused to hand over the financial documents. 
Quartz reported earlier this month that Trump’s Cabinet picks have more wealth than a third of American households combined. 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the Democrats’ demands. But a top aide tweeted on Thursday morning that President Obama got multiple nominees confirmed on the first day of his administration. 
Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Tom Carper (Del.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Tom Udall (N.M.), Mark Warner (Va.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), issued Thursday’s joint statement. 
Cardin told Democratic members on the Foreign Relations Committee that he expected to receive ethics and financial disclosure documents from secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson this week.
He added that he and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have “disagreements” about requiring Tillerson’s tax returns, but that the State Department nominee initially indicated he would turn them over. 
“I have not yet received 3 years’ worth of the nominee’s tax returns, which I have formally requested the Presidential Transition Team make available for review,” Cardin wrote in a letter to his colleagues.  
Without the tax returns and other information, he warned that it would be hard to schedule a confirmation hearing for Tillerson. 
“It is our responsibility to expedite the consideration of key cabinet nominees so that the new President can have key advisers in place as soon as possible,” Cardin said. 
He noted he would support Corker’s push for a hearing in the second week of January if he can get all “relevant information.”

– Updated at 2:25 p.m.

Tags Ben Cardin Bernie Sanders Bill Nelson Bob Corker Claire McCaskill Debbie Stabenow Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Jack Reed Jeanne Shaheen Jon Tester Maria Cantwell Mark Warner Mitch McConnell Patty Murray Ron Wyden Sherrod Brown Tom Carper Tom Udall

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