We had some good news out of the Senate last night in case you missed it. In a refreshing change of pace, rather than wrangling and arguing endlessly the upper chamber actually managed to confirm two of President Trump’s cabinet nominees. Steve Mnuchin was confirmed for Treasury while David Shulkin was installed at the VA. The latter went off without a hitch for reasons which will become obvious below, but Mnuchin hit the usual blue wall of opposition. (The Hill)
The Senate is poised to clear Steve Mnuchin to be President Trump’s Treasury secretary, largely along party lines.
As of 7:27 p.m., Mnuchin had 52 votes. The vote remains open, but the longtime Goldman’s executive has more than the simple majority needed for confirmation. He is expected to be sworn in Monday night.
Democrats don’t have the manpower to block Trump’s nominees on their own, but they signaled early on that Mnuchin would be a top target of opposition.
A pattern has been emerging in these confirmation hearings which is more than disturbing. It’s been repeated too many times to be simple coincidence or some sort of principled stand on the part of the Democrats over specific issues found on the resumes of Donald Trump’s nominees or any answers they may have given during the hearings. Yes, it’s good news that another seat has been filled, but a quick look at the vote tallies tells the story which would be sending up massive red flags for the minority party if they had the sense that God gave a goat.
Mnuchin garnered the support of the Republicans but only a single Democrat, that being Joe Manchin. (And let’s not forget that Manchin is up for reelection next year.) As I said above, this is not an isolated instance. Rather, it’s part of an ongoing pattern of absolute obstruction. AM New York has a nice roundup of the results of previous confirmation votes along with previews of what we can expect further down the line. Take a look at some of those numbers. Tom Price was confirmed for Health and Human Services with 52 votes. Atty. Gen. Jeff sessions received the same number. Betsy DeVos had to have the Vice President called in like some sort of high school detention monitor to break a tie just to put her in at the Department of Education. By comparison, Rick Tillerson looked almost like the belle of the ball when he managed to accrue 56 votes in his favor. The Democrats have promised more of the same to come.
Are you noticing a pattern here? And before you rush to their defense, don’t bring up David Shulkin or Elaine Chao. The former already had the Barack Obama seal of approval from his previous post and the minority party would have looked even more silly than they usually do had they chosen to oppose him. Chao carried the good graces of what remains of comity in the Senate by way of her marriage to her husband. But beyond that, nearly all of Trump’s nominees are running into a brick wall with the party of the donkey.
And for what reason? Trump is not appointing a band of brigands with criminal records or friends and donors with no experience in their respective fields. What was the opposition to Mnuchin? The man spent a lifetime working in the financial sector and dealing with the economy. One might suspect that this is a rap sheet which would be desirable at Treasury. The other nominees follow a similar pattern. No, the Democrats are only opposing these nominees because the perspective they bring to the job is in line with the winner of the presidential election. While there has been some sporadic resistance by Republicans to a few Democratic nominees in the past, we’ve never seen anything like this.
This might be a good time for Chuck Schumer and his buddies in the Senate to look to the future and remember that in American politics the shoe inevitably winds up on the other foot sooner or later. Except in this case, the results could be far more toxic for them the next time a Democrat holds the White House. What if they manage to take back the Oval Office in 2020 but failed to regain control of the majority in the Senate? Unlike the situation we are seeing now, the Republicans could use Schumer’s current pattern of behavior as a template and simply choose to vote as a block against each and every nominee. In that event, rather than a series of very narrow confirmations and a full cabinet they could find themselves with the president sitting in an essentially empty room for all of his or her cabinet meetings.
Just something to think about for the future. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander and the goose is beginning to get considerably ticked off.