Senate confirms two Treasury nominees over Democratic objections

Senate confirms two Treasury nominees over Democratic objections
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The Senate on Wednesday voted to confirm two Treasury Department nominees whom Democrats have criticized for their roles in controversial department actions — including the refusal to comply with House Democrats’ requests for President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders apologizes to Biden for supporter's op-ed Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Trump' if the US doesn't elect progressive Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover up,' 'national disgrace' MORE’s tax returns.

The chamber confirmed Brent McIntosh to be Treasury under secretary for international affairs by a vote of 54-38 and Brian Callanan to be Treasury general counsel by a vote of 55-39, both largely along party lines.

McIntosh is the current general counsel at Treasury, and Callanan is currently deputy general counsel.

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Republicans have praised their qualifications.

“In the midst of ever-changing global markets, trade, and economic dynamics, keeping the Treasury Department staffed with experienced hands like Brent McIntosh and Brian Callanan is critical," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP can beat Democrats after impeachment — but it needs to do this one thing Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report Senate begins preparations for Trump trial MORE (R-Iowa) said in a statement Wednesday. "Mr. McInstosh and Mr. Callanan are both well prepared for their new duties, having served at Treasury over the past few years. I’m confident that their continued advice to Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin will serve the Department and the country well.”

But Democrats argued that the men shouldn’t get promotions.

“Brent McIntosh and Brian Callanan have been central to the most controversial, legally-suspect Treasury Department actions during the Trump administration,” Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Lawmakers call for FTC probe into top financial data aggregator Overnight Health Care: Progressives raise red flags over health insurer donations | Republican FTC commish backs Medicare negotiating drug prices | Trump moves to protect money for religious groups MORE (D-Ore.) said in a statement Tuesday.

Wyden criticized McIntosh and Callanan for their involvement in the Treasury Department’s rejection of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealHouse revives agenda after impeachment storm Conservative groups aim to sink bipartisan fix to 'surprise' medical bills Treasury watchdog to investigate Trump opportunity zone program MORE’s (D-Mass.) requests and subpoenas for six years of Trump’s tax returns. The dispute is currently the subject of litigation.

Democratic Sens. Doug Jones (Ala.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump's trial a major test for McConnell, Schumer Poll: West Virginia voters would view Manchin negatively if he votes to convict Trump Pelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week MORE (W.Va.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover up,' 'national disgrace' Iran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner Parnas pressure grows on Senate GOP MORE (Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) joined Republicans in voting for McIntosh. They, as well as Democratic Sens. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinNew Parnas evidence escalates impeachment witnesses fight Pressure building on Pelosi over articles of impeachment Senate confirms Trump pick for small business chief MORE (Md.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDemocrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national origin Democrats, greens blast Trump rollback of major environmental law EPA employees push 'bill of rights' to protect scientific integrity MORE (Del.) also backed Callanan, who was opposed by GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulJuan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump Mitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the Senate GOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff MORE (Ky.).

Wyden had put a hold on the nominations in June because he wasn’t satisfied with the Treasury Department’s initial responses to his information requests about the handling of the tax return request. He lifted the hold in July, after Treasury provided him with more information, but he nonetheless opposed confirming the nominees.

Democrats have also criticized McIntosh and Callanan over their involvement in the department’s efforts to reduce donor disclosure requirements for certain tax-exempt groups.

Treasury and the IRS released guidance last year to do away with a requirement that certain tax-exempt groups — including “social welfare” organizations such as the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union — report the names and addresses of major donors on annual tax forms. 

A federal judge in Montana ruled in July that that guidance was unlawful because it didn’t include a notice-and-comment period. Subsequently, Treasury and the IRS earlier this month issued proposed rules through a process that allows stakeholders to provide comments to end the requirement that donor names and addresses be disclosed.

The Trump administration and congressional Republicans argue that the guidance is warranted because the IRS doesn’t need the names and addresses of the donors to carry out tax laws and because the donor information has inadvertently been made public in the past.

But Democrats have opposed the guidance, saying it could make it easier for foreign governments to influence U.S. politics through donations to “dark money” groups.

Several Democratic senators pressed McIntosh and Callanan about the initial version of the donor disclosure guidance at their confirmation hearing, which took place before the judge in Montana ruled that the guidance be set aside. 

McIntosh said he was aware that the guidance was going to be issued but it was the IRS that decided to issue the guidance without a notice and comment period. Callanan said that other units at Treasury and the IRS first analyzed the guidance and he reviewed their analyses and was comfortable that it was within the agencies' authority.