Democrats slow two Trump nominees as Cabinet spat heats up in Senate

Democrats on Tuesday delayed votes on two of President Trump's Cabinet nominees by boycotting the meeting of a key Senate committee, drawing strong condemnation from senior Republicans who accused Democrats of trying to do anything they can to undermine the Trump Administration.

"I think it's pathetic," said an aggravated Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who presided over a Senate Finance Committee meeting that had only empty seats on the Democratic side of the dais.

"Democrats should stop posturing and acting like idiots," said Hatch, who had planned to hold votes on Steven Mnuchin's nomination for Treasury Secretary, and the choice of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) for HHS Secretary.

"What's the matter with the other party? Are they that bitter about Donald Trump? The answer has to be yes, I guess," Hatch added.

Senate rules do not allow members of only one party to show up for a nomination vote in committee, as at least one member of the other party needs to be there for a quorum.

It is a rule that has been exploited before - most recently by Republicans, who boycotted a Senate committee vote in 2013, and delayed action on President Obama's choice to head the EPA, Gina McCarthy.

The GOP ultimately relented, and McCarthy's nomination was approved.

Today's move by Democrats came several hours after President Trump publicly jabbed at Democrats for not allowing swift votes on his Cabinet in the Senate.

"The Democrats are delaying my cabinet picks for purely political reasons," Mr. Trump fumed Tuesday morning on Twitter.

"They have nothing going but to obstruct," he added.

Democrats also used extra debate and an arcane rule known as the "two hour rule" to delay a committee vote on Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the President's pick for Attorney General.

Republicans set the vote for Wednesday at 10:30 am; from there, the Sessions nomination is expected to go to the Senate floor.

It was not all bad news for Mr. Trump's picks on Tuesday in the Senate, as the Senate Energy Committee voted to send two nominations to the Senate floor, approving Ryan Zinke for Interior Secretary, and Rick Perry for Energy Secretary.

Another Senate panel also approved the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, but a battle.

Final action is still needed on those nominations by the full Senate as well.

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