Senate Democrats released a statement Thursday morning calling on Trump’s nominees to offer full financial disclosures and ethics statements if they want the confirmation processes to run smoothly.
In the statement, 16 Democrats – all ranking members on the relevant committees vetting Trump’s nominees– asked that Trump’s cabinet nominees submit more information ahead of hearings, which Republicans want to move on as soon as possible.
“The United States Senate has a rich, bipartisan tradition of vetting nominees to the President’s Cabinet. We hope to continue that tradition with our colleagues in the Republican Majority because the American people are entitled to a fair and open consideration process for all executive nominations,” the committee said.
The statement appeared to draw a line against Trump’s nominees skipping over steps that have traditionally been completed before a nominee moves on to a confirmation hearing. Those steps include a nominee clearing an FBI background check, turning over a “completed financial disclosure statement and ethics agreement signed by the Office of Government Ethics” and satisfying “reasonable requests for additional information and Members have time to review that material.”
Democrats also are signaling that just because Republicans will likely have an easy time pushing Trump’s nominees through the committees because they are in the majority, they still don’t want to see longstanding norms fall by the wayside. Given a rules change in 2013, Republicans will be able to vote to approve cabinet nominees by a simple majority on the floor of the Senate.
One reason the process may be taking a bit longer is that Trump’s cabinet is very wealthy. A New York Times story Thursday explained that “for nominees with extensive financial holdings, preparation for confirmation hearings can take weeks or even months.”
Democrats have also urged cabinet nominees to disclose tax returns–something Trump did not do during the campaign and something that is not required of nominees. The Washington Post chronicled earlier this month that Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, will only provide three years of “tax return information” despite questions about his financial ties to Russia.
Republicans are in a hurry to get Trump’s cabinet cleared and put in place as they move on to their legislative priorities like repealing the Affordable Care Act. However, Democrats may view the confirmation process as an opportunity to push back on Trump’s agenda. Already Democrats are laying the groundwork for a contentious fight over Tillerson’s nomination, one that even Republicans have expressed doubt about. Democrats also have vowed to make the confirmation of Trump’s pick for HHS secretary, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), a proxy war against Price’s past support for privatizing Medicare.