US Senate panel approves President's Treasury, Health nominees without Democrats

The controversial move came a day after Democrats boycotted the Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider the nominations of Steven Mnuchin.

The controversial move came a day after Democrats boycotted the Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider the nominations of Wall Street banker Steven Mnuchin to head the US Treasury and congressman Tom Price to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

The committee’s chairman, veteran Senator Orrin Hatch, suspended the panel’s rules on forming a quorum, then held votes to approve Mnuchin and Price and send their nominations to the Senate floor for a full confirmation vote.

“We took some unprecedented actions today due to the unprecedented obstruction on the part of our colleagues,” Hatch said.

“For the record, I’ll note that the Senate Parliamentarian Office has confirmed that this course of action is consistent with both the committee and Senate rules,” he added.

Hearing footage showed all Republicans in attendance, while seats for the Democrats were empty.

“The only thing missing was a member from the minority side. But, as I noted, they, on their own accord, refused to participate in this exercise,” Hatch said.

Mnuchin and Price are among the most controversial of Trump’s cabinet nominees. Democrats have vowed to slow-walk the confirmation process, infuriating Republicans who stress that an incoming commander in chief ought to have his inner circle in place quickly.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons, who is not on the committee, expressed concern about the rules suspension.

“Today Republicans just ran right over them, and voted them out on the floor,” Coons told reporters.

“These are not normal times; this is not a typical president.”

The Senate holds a confirmation vote for Trump’s secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, the former chief executive of ExxonMobil, later Tuesday. He is expected to win confirmation along a party-line vote.

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