Republicans are vowing to press ahead with confirmation hearings this week for Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees despite the concerns of a federal watchdog that their complex backgrounds are slowing required ethics reviews.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday that there are no plans to alter a packed confirmation calendar, but he vowed that no nominee will earn an up-or-down vote until the requisite background checks are completed by the FBI and a federal ethics office.
“The Democrats are really frustrated that they lost the election,” he told CBS’s “Face the Nation,” adding that he was in a similar situation eight years ago when President Obama took office.
“What did we do? We confirmed seven Cabinet appointments the day President Obama was sworn in. We didn’t like most of them, either. But he won the election,” McConnell said. “So all of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate. I understand that. But we need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that.”
McConnell was responding to concerns expressed by Walter M. Shaub Jr., director of the Office of Government Ethics, who said in a letter released Friday that the current confirmation calendar is putting “undue pressure” on his office to “rush through these important reviews.”
Shaub, appointed in 2013 to lead the executive branch’s ethics office, warned that there are some unresolved ethics issues for nominees set to appear on Capitol Hill this week, adding that he was unaware of any Cabinet pick sitting for a confirmation hearing before completing an OGE review.
But Senate Republicans strongly disputed Shaub, noting that at least some hearings have been held before the OGE completed reviewing a nominee’s past.
Take the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, for example. The panel requires a nominee to complete a questionnaire – part of which is released publicly, while a portion containing personal information remains private. The committee also requires that a nominee undergo an ethics review by the OGE and an FBI criminal background check.