Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants Democrats to "grow up" and "get past" their election loss to move forward with the confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees, he said on Sunday (8 January). McConnell noted there were no plans to change the confirmation calendar but promised nominees would only be voted on when their background checks were complete.
"The Democrats are really frustrated that they lost the election," he said on CBS's Face the Nation, adding that Republicans found themselves in the same situation when President Barack Obama was first elected in 2008.
"What did we do? We confirmed seven Cabinet appointments the day President Obama was sworn in. We didn't like most of them, either. But he won the election," McConnell said.
"So all these little procedural complains are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate. I understand that. But we need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that."
McConnell's remarks come on the heels of a letter written by Walter Shaub Jr, the director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), expressing concern that the confirmation calendar was placing "undue pressure" on his office to "rush through these important reviews," The Washington Post reported. Shaub noted that there were some unresolved ethics issues involving some of Trump's nominees.
The letter, which was written to Trump's transition team in November and obtained by MSNBC, warned Trump aides about making decisions on nominees or blind trusts without receiving guidance from the ethics office. Shaub emailed Trump aides to say that despite his office's repeated attempts to reach out, "we seem to have lost contact with the Trump-Pence transition since the election".
According to NBC News, Shaub also warned that by "announcing cabinet picks" without letting the OGE review their financial information in advance, Trump aides were risking "embarrassment for the President-elect". He added that White House staffers should in particular receive ethics guidance to avoid inadvertently breaking federal rules.
"If we don't get involved early to prevent problems," the director wrote, "we won't be able to help them after the fact."
There are several confirmation hearings scheduled this week. Senator Jeff Sessions will be first, with confirmation hearings on 10 and 11 January, for the position of attorney general. John Kelly, Trump's nominee for homeland security secretary, is also scheduled for Tuesday (10 January).
Another three confirmation hearings will be held on Wednesday (11 January): Betsy DeVos for education secretary; Elaine Chao for transportation secretary; and Rex Tillerson for secretary of state. Ben Carson will have his confirmation hearing on Thursday (12 January) for the position of housing and urban development secretary, as will Wilbur Ross for commerce secretary.
Some of the nominees have completed the extensive background check processes and document reviews, while others have not, Politico reported. The Senate Judiciary Committee said that Sessions has completed both the ethics review and the FBI background check. DeVos and Kelly, however, have yet to complete their ethics reviews.
"This is not an issue that pits Republicans against Democrats — it pits Republicans against all Americans and an independent ethics agency that is tasked with ensuring the president's Cabinet follows the law," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in response to McConnell's interview.
"Until these nominees have fully cooperated with the ethics review process, the hearings and confirmation schedule should not be rushed."