Senate confirms two Treasury nominees over Democratic objections

Senate confirms two Treasury nominees over Democratic objections
© Getty Images

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 TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power The Hill's 12:30 Report: Ginsburg lies in repose Top GOP senators say Hunter Biden's work 'cast a shadow' over Obama Ukraine policy 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: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline Democratic senators ask inspector general to investigate IRS use of location tracking service 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 NealOn The Money: Half of states deplete funds for Trump's 0 unemployment expansion | EU appealing ruling in Apple tax case | House Democrats include more aid for airlines in coronavirus package House Democrats to include more aid for airlines in coronavirus package The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Republicans lawmakers rebuke Trump on election 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) ManchinThe debate over the filibuster entirely misses the point Trump plans to pick Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ginsburg on court Day before Trump refused to commit to peaceful transition, Aaron Sorkin described how he would write election night MORE (W.Va.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocratic senator calls for 'more flexible' medical supply chain to counter pandemics The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Don't expect a government check anytime soon GOP chairman to release interim report on Biden probe 'in about a week' MORE (Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) joined Republicans in voting for McIntosh. They, as well as Democratic Sens. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinPelosi hopeful COVID-19 relief talks resume 'soon' Congress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out PPP application window closes after coronavirus talks deadlock  MORE (Md.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperThe conservative case for phasing out hydrofluorocarbons Democrat asks for probe of EPA's use of politically appointed lawyers Overnight Energy: Study links coronavirus mortality to air pollution exposure | Low-income, minority households pay more for utilities: report MORE (Del.) also backed Callanan, who was opposed by GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRon Paul hospitalized in Texas The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' Rand Paul says he can't judge 'guilt or innocence' in Breonna Taylor case 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.