Trump’s nominees may face roadblocks

Senators in both parties say President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks could be in for a rocky confirmation process next year.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton have been flagged as problematic picks because of their hawkish policy views and, in the case of Giuliani, outside business dealings.

Both have been mentioned as possible nominees to head the State Department.

{mosads}They face staunch opposition from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who says other Republican lawmakers have expressed concern.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), who backed Trump in the primary, is a possibility to head the Interior Department. Some lawmakers question whether she would be up to speed on policy and note she has a penchant for going off script — something that Cabinet members are urged not to do. 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who Trump said earlier this year would make a great attorney general, has the “Bridgegate” scandal hanging over his head. Two former associates of the governor were convicted earlier this month of fraud, conspiracy and a civil rights violation after closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge in 2013 in an act of political retribution.

Trump replaced Christie as head of his transition team with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, however, and it appears unlikely the New Jersey governor will receive a Cabinet post. 

Giuliani and Bolton face immediate problems because of their vocal support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“I’ll do whatever I can to stop either, either Giuliani or Bolton, because I don’t think that they support the president-elect’s foreign policy views,” Paul told reporters Wednesday.

Paul noted that Giuliani was an outspoken proponent of former President George W. Bush’s Iraq policy and backed his aggressive foreign policy stances.

“There are quotes showing him being an unabashed supporter of the Iraq War. I think there are quotes that actually are similar to Bolton’s quotes on bombing Iran,” he added.

In the 2008 Republican presidential primary, Giuliani and Paul’s father, then-Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), repeatedly clashed over foreign policy.

Paul said “there are several members of the [Senate Republican] caucus who are uncomfortable with Bolton and Giuliani.”

On the Senate floor, Trump can lose only two GOP votes if Democrats are unified against a nominee. 

Bolton argued in an interview last year that the decision to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was correct, and expressed support in 2011 for toppling Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, which later created a power vacuum.

During Bush’s second term, the Senate refused to confirm Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. He was later tapped for the post via recess appointment. 

Trump’s picks will have a lower hurdle to clear compared with most of President Obama’s Cabinet selections. That’s because Democrats changed the rules in 2013 to allow executive branch and most judicial nominees to clear with simple-majority votes. Before then, nominees needed 60 votes to overcome filibusters.

Paul’s opposition alone will make it difficult to move either Giuliani or Bolton to the floor if nominated to serve as secretary of State.

Republicans control 10 seats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which has jurisdiction over nominees to the State Department, and Democrats have nine seats on the panel.

If Paul votes no, the committee would not be able to report Giuliani or Bolton with a favorable recommendation, though it would still be able to discharge the nomination to the floor.

Other Senate Republicans argued Wednesday that Trump should be given wide latitude to choose his Cabinet.

“I tend to give the president deference on people he chooses,” said Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R), who did not support Trump during the campaign.

Several Republicans, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (Ariz.), said they would back Giuliani or Bolton.

“I would support either one of them,” said McCain.

“They both have a lot of experience,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). “I’d be inclined to be supportive once I hear some of their views.”

But Paul and other Republican lawmakers said their colleague Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would have a much easier time winning confirmation if nominated as secretary of State. His name has been floated in recent days.

Giuliani faces scrutiny over his business dealings, which could drag out any confirmation process.

His firm, Giuliani Partners, has done work for TransCanada, the builder of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, the government of Qatar and TriGlobal Strategic Ventures, a company that helps facilitate business deals in the former Soviet Union.

Trump, who has never held elected office and ran for president as an outsider, is expected to nominate several Cabinet officers from outside the Washington establishment, raising concerns among some Senate Republicans about what might pop up during confirmation hearings.

“Hopefully they don’t nominate anybody who can’t be confirmed for something other than an ideological reason,” said one Republican senator.

Some Republicans worry that messy confirmation fights could slow Trump’s momentum during his first 100 days in office and undermine high-priority policy fights, such as the repeal of ­ObamaCare.

Democrats say if the president-elect taps Giuliani or Bolton, no one should expect any help from their side of the aisle.

“I think Bolton and Giuliani would have a tough time getting to 51. Some Republicans are going to have a difficult time swallowing some unabashed interventionist who’s unapologetic of the Iraq War,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.), a Democratic member of the Foreign Relations panel.

Trump’s pick to replace the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court could face a bruising confirmation process, especially because that nominee can be filibustered and would likely need 60 votes. 

Many Democrats are still furious that Republicans refused to give Obama’s nominee to the court, Merrick Garland, a well-regarded judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, a hearing in 2016.

“After the unprecedented and disrespectful treatment of Merrick Garland — a moderate judge who should have been quickly confirmed — the committee will pay very close attention to proposed nominees to ensure the fundamental constitutional rights of Americans are protected,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein 

(Calif.), who will take over as the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, pledged in a statement Wednesday. 

Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the only senator to endorse Trump during the primary, and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who finished second to the real estate mogul in the presidential primary, have been mentioned as possibilities to become attorney general. 

Senators usually face easier confirmation hearings and votes, helped by their personal relationships and the knowledge that if rejected for administrative posts, they would stick around the chamber, possibly looking to settle scores.

Sessions is a staunch conservative and well liked by his colleagues. Cruz has fewer friends in the Senate but his tendency to ruffle feathers might make colleagues eager to see him leave Congress.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) praised both Sessions and Cruz as “valued colleagues” and said he’s “going to try to support whoever [Trump] picks.”

Palin, McCain’s running mate in 2008, failed to earn any ringing endorsements from senators who were asked about her potential nomination to head the Interior Department.

“I’m not going to comment on that. I have an answer but I’m not going to share it,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Tags Bob Corker Chris Murphy Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump James Inhofe Jeff Flake Jeff Sessions John McCain Mike Pence Orrin Hatch Rand Paul Ted Cruz

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