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 TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades 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 GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties Congressional leaders unite to fight for better future for America's children and families 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 WydenOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills Congressional leaders unite to fight for better future for America's children and families McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug bill 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 NealOvernight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 Democrats could introduce articles of impeachment next week House to vote next week on sweeping bill to lower drug prices 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) ManchinStatesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges Both sides have reason to want speedy Trump impeachment trial No one wins with pro-abortion litmus test MORE (W.Va.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Democratic senator says he knows 'handful' of GOP colleagues considering vote to remove Trump Both sides have reason to want speedy Trump impeachment trial MORE (Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) joined Republicans in voting for McIntosh. They, as well as Democratic Sens. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinThe Secure Act makes critical reforms to our retirement system — let's pass it this year Lawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death Senate Democrats ask Pompeo to recuse himself from Ukraine matters MORE (Md.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperLobbying World Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder MORE (Del.) also backed Callanan, who was opposed by GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans Democratic congressman calls for study of effects of sex-trafficking law McConnell says he's 'honored' to be WholeFoods Magazine's 2019 'Person of the Year' 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.