Dem 2020 hopefuls lead pack in opposing Trump Cabinet picks

Dem 2020 hopefuls lead pack in opposing Trump Cabinet picks
© Greg Nash

Democratic senators with White House ambitions are leading the charge to sink President Trump’s Cabinet picks. 

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights The Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci 'aspirationally hopeful' of a vaccine by winter The Hill's Morning Report - Officials crack down as COVID-19 cases soar MORE is at the top. The New York Democrat has voted against 12 of Trump’s Cabinet picks and is the only Democrat to vote against confirming now-Secretary of Defense James Mattis. 

Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Progressive activist Ady Barkan endorses Biden, urges him to pick Warren as VP Congress must act now to fix a Social Security COVID-19 glitch and expand, not cut, benefits MORE (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump says Biden has been 'brainwashed': 'He's been taken over by the radical left' Ex-Sanders campaign manager talks unity efforts with Biden backers The Hill's Campaign Report: Florida's coronavirus surge raises questions about GOP convention MORE (I-Vt.) are close behind, as all three have voted against 11 of Trump’s Cabinet picks. 


All four senators are seen as possible contenders to run for the White House against Trump in 2020. 

Sens. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time Overnight Defense: Navy won't reinstate fired captain | Dems probe use of federal officers in DC | Air Force appoints woman as top noncommissioned officer Dems request watchdog probe use of federal law enforcement in DC during Floyd protests MORE (D-N.M.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallHispanic Democrats build capital with big primary wins Senate rejects Paul proposal on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 | Commerce Department led 'flawed process' on Sharpiegate, watchdog finds | EPA to end policy suspending pollution monitoring by end of summer MORE (D-N.M.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyHillicon Valley: QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem | Supreme Court upholds regulation banning robocalls to cellphones | Foreign hackers take aim at homebound Americans | Uber acquires Postmates QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem Democratic senator will introduce bill mandating social distancing on flights after flying on packed plane MORE (D-Ore.) have also voted against 11 of Trump’s nominees. Heinrich is up for reelection in 2018.

Freshman Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.), another Democrat frequently mentioned as a potential 2020 contender, has voted against 10 of Trump’s nominees. 

Speaking out forcefully against Trump has been a must for anyone interested in taking advantage of the left’s anger over the president. 

“What matters most about these early days of the Trump presidency is the degree into which people ... stand up with backbone,” said Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC). 

Gillibrand, 50, has voted against every Trump nominee with the exceptions of Nikki Haley as United Nations ambassador and David Shulkin for secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The votes have earned the two-term senator immediate national attention and could help put to bed skepticism that she’s too moderate compared to colleagues such as Warren and Sanders. 

A spokesman for Gillibrand shot down speculation that the votes have anything to do with 2020, telling the Washington Post that the New York Democrat — who is also up for reelection in 2018 — is only considering each nominee's “record and qualifications.” 

Gillibrand also walked a line this week, tying herself to the “resistance” to Trump while downplaying her own role.

“I’m just a small piece of something much larger than myself,” she told late night TV host Seth Meyers. “We are all the resistance.” 

Booker, 47, made headlines and history when he testified against then-Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard Sessions Senate outlook slides for GOP Supreme Court blocks order that relaxed voting restrictions in Alabama Justice Dept. considering replacing outgoing US attorney in Brooklyn with Barr deputy: report MORE (R-Ala.) during his confirmation hearing to become attorney general — the first time a sitting senator testified against a colleague. 

The only Trump Cabinet members he’s backed are Shulkin, Mattis and Haley.

Warren, 67, is seen by some as the frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic nomination. 

Her blistering speech against Sessions led Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse chairman asks CDC director to testify on reopening schools during pandemic Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Pelosi says House won't cave to Senate on worker COVID-19 protections MORE (R-Ky.) to have the Senate vote to formally rebuke her. 

McConnell’s comments that Warren had been warned about her slurs on Sessions but had “persisted” have become a rallying point for opponents of Trump — and won praise for the Massachusetts senator.

Like Booker, Warren has only voted for Shulkin, Mattis and Haley. 

Sanders, 75, who narrowly lost the Democratic primary last year to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump to visit Georgia next week Former NY Rep. Claudia Tenney to face Anthony Brindisi in House rematch Powell takes on Trump over Confederate flag MORE, has played a huge role in the contest to pick a new Democratic National Committee chairman. 

He has cast votes against all of Trump’s Cabinet members with the exceptions of Shulkin, Mattis and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. 

Harris, 52, used her maiden speech on the Senate floor to talk up the need to resist Trump. 

“We have a responsibility to draw a line with these administration actions, and say no,” she said in the Feb. 16 speech.

Harris has voted for just Mattis, Haley, Shulkin and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. 

It’s possible the opposition by Democrats to Trump’s nominees could backfire in a general election if the members are seen as too partisan. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued that Democrats are currently suffering from a “fever” and under pressure from their base to oppose everything. 

But in a primary, the votes against Trump’s Cabinet members speak volumes about a senator’s liberal bona fides. 

In fact, it is votes for Trump Cabinet picks that can cause heartburn. 

Warren found herself at the center of a progressive firestorm after she announced that she would support Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The liberal Daily Kos penned an article on Warren’s vote entitled “‘The Resistance’ crumbles: Warren approves Carson.” 

The Massachusetts Democrat quickly went on the defense, saying in a Facebook post that the former neurosurgeon made “good, detailed promises.”

“Yes, he is not the nominee I wanted. But 'the nominee I wanted' is not the test,” she said. 

A few Democrats have offered support for most of Trump’s nominees. 

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads George Floyd and the upcoming Texas Democratic Senate runoff Energy companies cancel Atlantic Coast Pipeline MORE (D-W.Va.) has voted for all but three of Trump’s nominees: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget. 

Right behind Manchin comes Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (D-N.D.) who has voted against five of Trump’s nominees, and Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillTrump mocked for low attendance at rally Missouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties Senate faces protracted floor fight over judges amid pandemic safety concerns MORE (D-Mo.) who has voted against six. 

All three face tough reelection races next year in states won by Trump.