Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is using Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) own words against him in the fight over scheduling hearings for Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees.
Schumer on Monday sent back to McConnell a 2009 letter that McConnell himself wrote to then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) asking all of Obama’s nominees to submit ethics agreements, undergo FBI background checks and complete questionnaires before they were scheduled for confirmation hearings. In a speech Monday afternoon from the Senate floor, Schumer said McConnell should enforce the same standards now that his party is in the majority.
“I don’t bring this up to play gotcha,” Schumer said of the letter, which was resurfaced by journalists on Twitter over the weekend. “I’m doing it to show that our requests are eminently reasonable and, in fact, have been shared by leaders of both parties.”
Schumer tweeted out the new version of the letter, which was tweaked with a Sharpie to update the titles.
A number of Trump’s Cabinet picks, whose hearings are slated to begin this week, have not yet completed ethics reviews. Democratic senators and the independent federal Office of Government Ethics have said this rushed schedule leaves critical questions about the nominees’ business ties unaddressed.
McConnell’s office noted that Congress had already confirmed Obama’s Cabinet nominees by the time his February 2009 letter to Reid was sent. While this is accurate, Obama’s picks had also already completed the required vetting requested.
“For Sen. Schumer to compare that letter to the current situation seems misleading at best,” McConnell’s deputy chief of staff Don Stewart told TPM in an email. “If he wants to do things the same way we did, he’ll join us in having multiple hearings per day (like we did for Obama nominees; including five in one day). He’ll join us in confirming seven Cabinet nominations on day one—by voice vote, as we did for Pres. Obama. And then he’ll work with us to complete the Cabinet within two weeks of Inauguration.”
In his Monday remarks, Schumer said Democrats were not acting out of “pique or anger” but in the interest of ensuring a “thorough and thoughtful vetting process.”
The New York senator said this vetting was particularly important because many of Trump’s nominees come “from enormous wealth” and have limited experience in government. Several have also expressed policy positions that are strikingly different from those taken by the President-elect, Schumer noted.
“Jamming all these hearings into one or two days, making members run from committee to committee makes no sense,” he said. “These nominees are going to hold incredibly powerful positions for potentially the next four years. To spend an extra day or two on each nominee, even if it takes a few weeks to get through them all in order to carefully consider their nominations, that is well worth it.”
Schumer’s updated letter is posted below.