By Peter Schroeder - 01-31-17 10:29 AM EST
Senate Democrats on Tuesday refused to attend a committee vote on two of President Trump's more controversial nominees, effectively delaying their consideration.
Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee boycotted votes to advance Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Trump's pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services, and Steven Mnuchin, his selection to head the Treasury Department. The pair had been among some of the more contentious selections to join Trump's Cabinet.
Republicans expressed outrage at the move, while Democrats gathered outside the Senate Finance Committee hearing room to outline their gripes with the selections.
"I can't understand why senators, who know we're going to have these two people go through, can't support the committee," said Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
"I'm very disappointed in this kind of crap. ... Some of this is because they just don't like the president."
"This is the most pathetic thing I've seen in my whole time in the United States Senate," he added.
Democrats walked out of the Senate Finance Committee hearing room, arguing that Mnuchin and Price misled senators in their testimony before the panel, and saying they could not allow a vote to proceed without more information.
"He misled Congress and he misled the American people," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the panel, said of Price.
Democrats said they wanted to bring Price and Mnuchin in for further questions, saying some of their statements did not line up with the facts.
"We have great concern that Chairman Hatch is asking us to vote today on two nominees who out and out lied to our committee," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
Both Price and Mnuchin had been targeted fiercely by Democrats on a range of ethical issues. Price was pressed on his investment activity in various medical companies, and whether he improperly mixed his political activity with his personal portfolio.
And Mnuchin's time at the head of OneWest Bank, and whether it treated homeowners facing foreclosure fairly, was central to his testimony.
Minutes before a scheduled vote on the pair, Democrats said the nominees still had to clear up matters.
Hatch said he would try to hold a vote on the nominees later in the day.
Amid the frustration and partisan jabbing, there was no clear resolution to the standoff. Democrats insisted that Mnuchin and Price return to the committee to answer more questions. But Hatch ruled that out, calling the request "bull."
"They've had every opportunity, and as far as I'm concerned we're going to get these people through," he said after the hearing.
Though the GOP blasted the boycott as unprecedented partisanship in the Senate, Republicans pulled a similar move when they were the minority in 2013, refusing to attend a hearing confirmation for Gina McCarthy, President Obama's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
Democrats have argued Price's financial investments pose a conflict of interest.
In particular, Democrats have questioned Price's trading of medical stocks while a member of Congress, including the purchase of the biotech shares.
They've pushed for a delay on the committee vote, to no avail.
"We've made clear we need additional information to make those judgments," Wyden told reporters Tuesday.
He later tweeted that the "litany of ethics revelations" surrounding Price are "strong evidence" that he can't be allowed to have control of Medicare.
Four Democrats sitting on the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) also asked for a delay on Tuesday's committee vote in a letter sent to Hatch on Monday evening, citing "serious concerns" about "outstanding and significant questions about [Price's] qualifications and ethical conduct."
The letter was signed by Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Al Franken (Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), all of whom questioned Price during a HELP hearing earlier this month.
"It would be a disservice to the American people to put Rep. Price in such a position if these outstanding questions are not answered," the letter read.
Jessie Hellmann and Sylvan Lane contributed.
- Updated at 11:20 a.m.