Dems delay Sessions vote, as 4 other Trump nominees clear committee

The Senate on Tuesday morning gave preliminary approval to four of President Trump’s Cabinet-level picks, though Democratic leaders delayed consideration of the president’s choice for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, forced a one-week delay for a Sessions committee vote.

The California senator asked to wait until Jan. 31, in part, she said, because the women who marched in Washington and other cities on Saturday voiced concerns about equal rights and equal pay, which are “values that the attorney general must defend.”

She also said the committee received 188 pages of new material Sunday that need to be reviewed. Committee rules allow any member of the committee to delay a vote.

Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce committee approved Trump’s choice to lead the Commerce Department, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, and Elaine Chao to be Transportation secretary.

The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee also approved Ben Carson, Trump’s nominee for Housing secretary. 

And the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted overwhelmingly to approve Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Ross, Chao, Haley and Carson still face a final confirmation vote on the Senate floor but are expected to win approval, considering Republicans have 52 senators and need 51 of them to vote yea.

sessionsag_small Dems delay Sessions vote, as 4 other Trump nominees clear committee News

The Republican-controlled Congress has approved three major Trump nominations since he took office.

On Friday, the day Trump was sworn in, the Senate confirmed retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to be secretary of Defense and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to run the Homeland Security Department.

On Monday, the chamber confirmed Kansas GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo to lead the CIA.

The 79-year-old Ross has specialized in buying distressed companies that still have a potential for delivering profits. He has known Trump for more than 20 years, was an early supporter of his presidential campaign and an economic policy adviser to Trump’s team.

Chao was Labor secretary in President George W. Bush’s administration and deputy Transportation secretary under President George H.W. Bush.

She is also the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and was known to many senators before Trump tapped her for his Cabinet.

Chao said during her nomination hearing that she hopes to “unleash the potential” of private investors to boost infrastructure spending.

She is expected to play a major role in Trump’s effort to fulfill his campaign promise to generate $1 trillion in infrastructure investment. The administration is expected to release its infrastructure plan this spring.

Carson, the former Republican presidential candidate and celebrated neurosurgeon would lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a sprawling agency with 8,300 employees and a budget of about $47 billion.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Finance commitee held its hearing on confirming Georgia Rep. Tom Price to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

As in earlier confirmation testimony this month, Price, an orthopedic surgeon, was questioned by Democrats about his investments in health care companies and his plan to repeal and place ObamaCare.

Among Democrats’ concerns are Price’s purchase last year of stocks in Zimmer Biomet, a major medical device manufacturer.

The acquisitions, in part through a broker, occurred at about the same time Price introduced legislation to suspend Medicare rules seen as problematic for such companies.

And Price again on Tuesday denied that he bought stock on a “tip” from New York GOP Rep. Chris Collins, who has boasted about making “millions” on his deal. 

“Everything I did was ethical, legal, above board and transparent,” Price said.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the committee, also accused Price and other Republicans in control of Congress since Trump took office of racing to repeal ObamaCare without a replacement plan for the projected 18 million Americans who could lose their health insurance.  

“Congressman Price is the architect of repeal and run,” Wyden said. “The Price plan takes America back to the dark days when health care worked only for the healthy and the wealthy.”