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 TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? 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 GrassleyTrump's latest plan to boost ethanol miffs both corn groups and the fossil fuel industry Syria furor underscores Trump's isolation GOP braces for impeachment brawl 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 WydenDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Bipartisan senators want federal plan for sharing more info on supply chain threats PhRMA CEO warns Pelosi bill to lower drug prices would be 'devastating' for industry 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 — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Buttigieg targets Warren, Sanders on health care ahead of debate | Judge overturns ObamaCare transgender protections | Poll sees support drop for 'Medicare for All' America's workers and small business owners need the SECURE Act CBO: Pelosi bill to lower drug prices saves Medicare 5 billion 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 Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe Fallout from Kavanaugh confirmation felt in Washington one year later MORE (W.Va.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyBacklash erupts at video depicting Trump killing media, critics Congress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds Administration to give 'top secret' briefing on Syria amid pushback MORE (Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) joined Republicans in voting for McIntosh. They, as well as Democratic Sens. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenate Democrats aim to repeal rules blocking Trump tax law workarounds Congress briefed on Iran after Saudi oil attacks Senate Democrats hesitant to go all-in on impeachment probe MORE (Md.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperInstead of raising the gas tax, stop wasting money on frivolous projects To stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists MORE (Del.) also backed Callanan, who was opposed by GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCNN catches heat for asking candidates about Ellen, Bush friendship at debate Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump isolated amid Syria furor | Pompeo, Pence to visit Turkey in push for ceasefire | Turkish troops advance in Syria | Graham throws support behind Trump's sanctions Rand Paul rips Lindsey Graham: 'Wrong about almost every foreign policy decision' 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.