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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 TrumpFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyImpeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Overnight Health Care: Biden unveils COVID-19 relief plan | Post-holiday surge hits new deadly records | Senate report faults 'broken' system for insulin price hikes 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 WydenSection 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media Senate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster Overnight Health Care: Biden unveils COVID-19 relief plan | Post-holiday surge hits new deadly records | Senate report faults 'broken' system for insulin price hikes 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 NealIRS says start of tax filing season delayed until Feb. 12 On The Money: Twenty states raise minimum wage at start of new year | Trade group condemns GOP push to overturn Biden victory | Top Democrat: Georgia runoffs will influence push for ,000 checks Top Democrat: Outcome of Georgia runoffs will influence push for ,000 checks 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) ManchinSenate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster Manchin: Removing Hawley, Cruz with 14th Amendment 'should be a consideration' 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate MORE (W.Va.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster Democratic senator: COVID-19 relief is priority over impeachment trial Lawmakers push back on late Trump terror designation for Yemen's Houthis MORE (Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) joined Republicans in voting for McIntosh. They, as well as Democratic Sens. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster Georgia keeps Senate agenda in limbo Trump signs bill authorizing memorial to fallen journalists MORE (Md.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperWhite House intervened to weaken EPA guidance on 'forever chemicals' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Capitol in Chaos | Trump's Arctic refuge drilling sale earns just fraction of GOP prediction | EPA finds fuel efficiency dropped, pollution spiked for 2019 vehicles EPA finalizes 'secret science' rule, limiting use of public health research MORE (Del.) also backed Callanan, who was opposed by GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Legislatures boost security after insurrection, FBI warnings Former Missouri senator says backing Hawley was 'worst mistake of my life' 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.