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Ethics agency has 'great concern' about Trump nominees' schedule, lack of information

11 January 2017

After the election of Mr Obama, Mr McConnell, then the Senate minority leader, wrote to his Democrat counterpart demanding "the Office of Government Ethics letter is complete and submitted to the committee in time for review and prior to a committee hearing" for the President's nominees. Given that Republicans only hold 52 of the 100 Senate seats (the slightest of majorities), there's plenty of opportunity for the Democrats to seize on the uneasiness of many Republican congressmen to either delay the confirmation process or reject Cabinet nominees altogether.

The director of the independent Office of Government Ethics raised "great concern" about scheduling confirmation hearings before nominees could be properly "precleared".

The Senate is bracing for a packed week of interviewing Trump's picks for some of the nation's top offices-among them Alabama Sen. This was long considered important-at least, until one day after the November elections, when suddenly all of the Republicans in government decided that since there was no damn way they'd ever convince Donald Trump to abide by those longstanding ethical rules, the only possible solution was to ignore those rules and call it done. Chuck Schumer, are pressing to postpone the confirmation committee meetings this week of several of Trump's nominees until they turn in financial disclosure reports to resolve any potential conflicts of interest.

(Al Franken wouldn't get sworn into office for six more months.) Republican voters were just as unhappy with Obama's picks as Democrats are now with Trump's, but McConnell cooperated with the traditionally expeditious process of confirming an incoming administration. It was a stunning declaration, considering McConnell spent 11 months blocking nomination hearings for President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, against the will of the American people.

"All of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate", McConnell said.

Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said he believed all would ultimately be confirmed. He is a colleague of the senators who will vote on his confirmation but his conservative positions on immigration, LGBTQ issues and voting rights could complicate his confirmation hearings. The Democrats have contended that given the vast business ties of several of the nominees, a thorough review of their interests will take time.

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Because they are in the minority, Democrats have no ability to block the hearings outright, but their public pressure campaign seems to have helped to slow the process.

Senate committee aides said hearings were held for former Education Secretary Roderick Paige and former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao before they received the same forms in 2001, and that they received the documents days after each of those hearings.

The first Cabinet appointee to go through a confirmation hearing will be Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, Jan. 10, who is Trump's nominee for attorney general.

McConnell's cavalier attitude toward the ethics process belies the fact that it is Republicans who have the most to lose.

As with so numerous early skirmishes of the Trump administration-in-waiting, this fight is about setting a tone as much as substance.

Ethics agency has 'great concern' about Trump nominees' schedule, lack of information