Donald Trump’s cabinet picks present a unique challenge for the independent federal agency tasked with preventing ethical conflicts. In addition to being the wealthiest presidential cabinet in history, some nominees have yet to complete the required financial-disclosure paperwork. The head of the Office of Government Ethics complained on Saturday that they need more time to determine if there are any financial, ethical, or criminal issues with the nominees, but it looks like they aren’t going to get it.
Despite the concerns expressed by the nonpartisan government ethics office, Sunday on Face the Nation Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested the only calls to slow down the confirmation process are coming from Democrats. McConnell told host John Dickerson that Republicans were in the same position eight years ago, but they still confirmed seven cabinet appointments on the day President Obama took office.
“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. “I understand
that. But we need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that.”
Republicans have at least nine confirmation hearings scheduled for this week, and five are set to take place on Wednesday. It’s not unusual to have five confirmation hearings in one day — it happened for both President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush’s nominees — but on Wednesday the Senate is also set to hold a vote-a-rama that could kick off the repeal of Obamacare, and Trump is scheduled to hold his first post-election press conference.
The GOP has also pointed out that in 2001 the Senate held confirmation hearings for Roderick Paige and Elaine Chao (McConnell’s wife) before the Office of Government Ethics completed its review. But former Obama administration ethics counsel Norm Eisen told The Wall Street Journal such cases were the exception. “If it were one isolated incident, then perhaps you could overlook it,” Eisen said.
Senate committees have not received paperwork for four of the nine Trump nominees with hearings this week, but McConnell told Dickerson, “We want to have all the records in – all the papers completed before they’re actually confirmed on the Senate floor.”
As Eisen noted on Twitter on Sunday, back in 2009, McConnell wrote a letter to then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying all Obama nominees should have their FBI background check, Office of Government Ethics review, and financial disclosure statements complete before their hearing was even scheduled.
“These best practices serve the Senate well, and we will insist on their fair and consistent application,” McConnell wrote.
Looks like the strange malady that prevents the majority leader from recalling that he blocked the consideration of Obama’s final Supreme Court pick is affecting his long-term memory as well.