Senate to vote Friday on Trump's defense picks
© Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden's Supreme Court commission ends not with a bang but a whimper Hispanic organizations call for Latino climate justice in reconciliation Senate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act MORE (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that the Senate will take up at least two of President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE's nominees on Friday.

"Senators on both sides of the aisle have expressed support for the president-elect's key national security nominees," he told reporters.

Democrats will allow for a "day one" vote on retired Gens. James Mattis and John Kelly, Trump's picks to lead the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security, respectively.


"I looked at their records and I rely on advice from some colleagues on both sides of the aisle ... and I think they would be very good nominees," Schumer said, asked why Democrats were allowing votes on Mattis and Kelly. 

He added that the Senate would also begin debate on Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), tapped to lead the CIA, on Friday, with a vote expected by Monday. 

"There are a good number of members who have serious, serious statements that they want to make about Pompeo and questions they want to ask," he said. "Whether that can be done on Friday remains to be seen." 

Other non-controversial nominees could be moved through the Senate "quickly," but Schumer declined to say who Democrats were willing to clear next or when.

Pressed if the current deal meant non-controversial nominees like Elaine Chao, Ben Carson and Nikki Haley — Trump's picks to lead the Transportation Department, Housing and Urban Development Department, and be UN ambassador, respectively — wouldn't get votes on Friday, Schumer demurred. 

"I'm not getting into names, but we are still negotiating," he told reporters. 

Schumer and Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHoyer signals House vote on bill to 'remove' debt limit threat Biden signs bill to raise debt ceiling On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan MORE (R-Ky.) have been locked down in talks for days over which Trump nominees would be cleared on the first day of his administration. 

Democrats hinted after a closed-door lunch of Wednesday that they were coalescing around letting some of Trump's national security picks clear the Senate quickly after the inauguration. 

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinJane Fonda to push for end to offshore oil drilling in California Overnight Health Care — Presented by The National Council on Mental Wellbeing — Merck asks FDA to authorize five-day COVID-19 treatment Bannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters that she expected three nominees would get votes. Pressed about Chao — who is married to McConnell — as well as Mattis, Kelly and Pompeo, she told reporters, "well you're three for four." 

If Schumer and McConnell aren't able to reach a broader deal by Friday afternoon, Trump will have fewer than half the number of confirmed nominees that President Obama had on his 2009 inauguration day.

The Senate, then controlled by Democrats, cleared seven Obama nominees on the first day of his administration. 

Republicans have pointed to 2009 as a guidepost for how many Trump nominees they want to get cleared on the first day of the new administration. 

McConnell told reporters after a meeting with Trump in New York earlier this month that he was "hopeful we'll get up to six or seven."

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn raises more than M for Senate GOP Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, also pointed to seven as the number of nominees Republicans wanted to get cleared through the upper chamber on Friday. 

But McConnell appeared to acknowledge in a pair of interviews on Wednesday evening that Republicans would fall short, facing an early setback in their effort to set up Trump's Cabinet. 

He told USA Today that the Senate was currently on track to only vote on three Trump nominees, though he didn't mention which nominees would get votes. 

“It’s safe to say the Democrats are in a bad mood. You can see that in the way the confirmations process is going on in the Senate. We are getting off to kind of a rough start,” he told USA Today. 

Democrats argue that Trump's picks deserve extra scrutiny because of the number of wealthy people set to serve in his Cabinet and potential conflicts of interest. 

Schumer — reiterating a frequent criticism from Democrats — said Thursday that "if there was ever a group of Cabinet nominees that cry out for rigorous scrutiny, it's this one." 

A spate of late-breaking controversies involving Trump's nominees has roiled Democrats this week. 

CNN and Time reported that Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) invested in healthcare companies before introducing or supporting legislation that would benefit them. The Trump transition has dismissed those reports.


Schumer has floated that Republicans should disqualify Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) from serving as the director of the Office of Management and Budget over reports that he failed to pay roughly $15,000 in taxes on a household employee. 

The Senate's top Democrat argued that Republicans aren't "proud" of Trump's "swamp cabinet" and are trying to rush the nominees through hearings. 

"If the Cabinet nominees are confirmed with Republicans' support, when Republicans have opposed previous nominees for lesser ethical lapses, our ethical standards will wither and that will be one of Donald Trump's first legacies," Schumer said. 

Fifteen Trump nominees have had a confirmation hearing over the past two weeks. 

Democrats face an uphill battle to block any of Trump's nominees, who only need 50 votes to clear the upper chamber. Republicans hold a 52-seat majority. 

After Democrats criticized the hearing for Betsy DeVos, Trump's pick to lead the Education Department, Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate MORE (R-Tenn.) said arguments that there wasn't enough time for questions were "nonsense." 

"DeVos’s hearing on Tuesday was three and a half hours, about an hour and a half longer than either of the hearings for President Obama’s two education secretaries. The Democrats are making up excuses because they can’t find better reasons to oppose the nominees," he said. 


Trump's team also accused Schumer on Thursday of using "stalling tactics."  

But Schumer warned that if Republicans didn't allow Democrats to vent their concerns during the hearing process, they would take the fight over the nominees to the Senate floor.

"We'd much prefer to have full questions with these nominees in hearings, because they're there, but if we can't the floor will be place we have to bring to light key issues," he said. 

- This story was updated at 12:25 p.m.