McConnell sets up votes on six Trump nominees

Source: By JORDAIN CARNEY, The Hill • Posted: Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is teeing up votes on six additional Trump nominees as Republicans try to end a Democratic slow walk of the president’s picks.

McConnell filed cloture on Monday night for Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) to lead the Office of Management and Budget, Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Wilbur Ross to head the Commerce Department, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) to be the Interior secretary, Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to be Energy secretary.

The move sets up initial votes for all of Trump’s nominees who’ve so far had confirmation hearings and committee votes, which allows them to come before the full Senate.

Democrats could easily drag out votes on the six nominees for more than a week and the Senate is poised to leave town on Friday for the week-long Presidents Day recess.

Absent a deal, the Senate will take its first vote on Mulvaney on Wednesday, with a final vote as early as Thursday. That would tee up a first vote for Pruitt on Thursday, with Democrats able to drag out debate time and delay a final vote on the EPA hopeful’s nomination into Friday night.

Under Senate rules, if leadership wants to skip over the 30 hours of debate on any nominee it requires an agreement, potentially giving Democrats the leverage to drag out debate on any one nominee for days.

Though Democrats will likely put up a fight over Mulvaney other picks — like Perry and Zinke — are considered less controversial.

Asked about the Democratic strategy on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) demurred.

“As we’ve said, we feel we have done the country a service for exposing these nominees for who they are,” he told reporters when asked if Democrats would drag out the clock. “For the big eight we’re going to give them full scrutiny and there may be others we give full scrutiny to as well.”

Mulvaney is included as part of the eight Trump nominees Democrats are most opposed to.

The Senate will also hold a hearing this week for Andy Puzder, who has been picked to lead the Labor Department and is also a top target of opposition for Democrats.

Schumer urged Trump to withdraw the nomination amid  a growing controversy about Puzder hiring an undocumented immigrant and failing to pay taxes on the household employee.

The Senate confirmed David Shulkin to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs and Steve Mnunchin to be Treasury secretary on Monday. Under a deal announced late last week they will vote on Linda McMahon’s nomination to lead the Small Business Administration on Tuesday.