(CNSNews.com) – Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) angrily blasted Democrat members of his committee for their last-minute boycott of scheduled votes on two of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks, calling it “the most pathetic treatment [of Cabinet nominees] I’ve seen in my 40 years in the United States Senate.”
“They ought to stop posturing and acting like idiots,” the soft-spoken and normally mild-mannered Republican chairman said of his Democratic colleagues.
“We’ve had these [confirmation] hearings, we’ve had meetings, we’ve worked together. I was led to believe they were ready to vote today,” Hatch said to a handful of Republicans in the nearly empty hearing room Tuesday morning.
Just before the scheduled vote on Steven Mnuchin for secretary of the Treasury and Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) for secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services, Democrats on the Finance Committee held an impromptu news conference announcing the boycott.
Since at least one Democrat must be present before a committee vote can be taken, the votes on Mnuchin and Price had to be postponed.
Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) claimed that Price “misled the Congress” during his confirmation hearing by stating he had not received “special access to a special deal” in his purchase of discounted stock of an Australian pharmaceutical company.
Democrats also said they had issues with statements Mnuchin made denying the use of “robosigning” on foreclosure documents when he was chairman of OneWest bank.
"We've made clear that we need additional information to make these judgments," Wyden said.
But Hatch said that the minority members of the committee, who presented him with “a list of demands” Tuesday morning, had ample time during the two nominees’ confirmation hearings to question them and make up their minds whether they would vote for them or not.
“It’s a sad time when this bipartisan committee has become a prop in a partisan sideshow, and that’s what they’ve done here this morning,” Hatch said.
“We already know how the Democrats are going to vote. They’re going to vote against both of these candidates. We know that, which I think in and of itself is reprehensible. A fellow member of Congress and they’re going to vote him down?
“They have the right to do it. I’d be the first to uphold that right, but it’s unbelievable. They’re going to vote no. They have made that very clear in their multiple press releases and press conferences. So I think they ought to stop posturing and acting like idiots,” Hatch said.
The Finance chairman also pointed out that presidents have long been given deference in their choice of Cabinet members, and President Trump should be no exception.
“They ought to be embarrassed. This is the most pathetic treatment I’ve seen in my 40 years in the United States Senate. We can have our differences and disagreements. We can really dislike some of the appointments by Democrat presidents and Republican presidents. But the presidents ought to have their choice of Cabinet officials to work with. And even if we disagree with them, vote no,” Hatch said.
He also expressed disappointment with his Democratic colleagues, noting that he “treated them fairly” and gave them “a chance to ask every questions that they wanted to ask.”
“I’m really disappointed that my friends on the other side, Democrats on the other side, are deliberately boycotting this markup,” Hatch said.
“Why that’s an important thing for them, I’ll never understand, because these two nominees are going to go through, regardless. And they didn’t lay a glove on them, as far as I was concerned, during the [confirmation] hearings. They had a chance to ask every question that they wanted to ask. They were treated fairly, which I always intend to do," Hatch continued in an extended soliloquy.
“I can’t understand why senators – who know that we’re going to have these two people go through – can’t support the committee in a markup of these two people. I don’t remember us treating their nominees this way, at least I can’t remember ever doing that.
“And I’m really disappointed that they’re boycotting this consideration of Steven Mnuchin to be the secretary of the Treasury and Representative Tom Price, one of the members of our Congress, to be secretary of Health & Human Services.
"We ought to be proud of him, and we ought to be willing to support a man of integrity, which he is,” Hatch said.
“Now assuming that they can’t support these two, then they can vote against them. That’s what an honest approach to this matter would be.
“Now I’m hopeful that when we schedule this again, that they’ll be here. We’re going to do this again throughout the day and see if they will come and do the job that they’ve been elected and sworn to do.
“And I’m very disappointed in this type of [expletive]. My gosh, there’s no excuse for it," Hatch added.
Hatch pointed out that he “bent over backwards” to make sure that Democrats were treated fairly during the nominees’ confirmation hearings and that he made sure he allotted enough time to thoroughly vet them, suggesting that they boycotted the vote because they don’t like Trump.
“I love everybody on that side. There isn't one person that I don’t care for on the Democrat side. I think I’ve more than shown that over the years. I’ve been fair to them, I’ve been kind, I’ve done everything according to the book, bent over backwards beyond the book, and it’s tremendously disappointing to me to have them not show up for markup when we’ve had plenty of time to look at these nominees.
“They know Congressman Price very well and I think that they recognize Steve Mnuchin is a really terrific candidate for Treasurer of the United States, one of the best we’ve ever had come before this committee.
“Let’s not treat people like this. I think some of this is because they just don’t like the president. Well, they have a right not to like the president. I happen to like the president very, very much. And frankly, they have a right not to like the president.
“But they really shouldn’t treat dignified people, who are willing to sacrifice to serve in the government, this way,” Hatch said.
In 2013, Hatch, then ranking member of the Finance Committee, voted for President Obama’s choice of Jack Lew to succeed Timothy Geithner as secretary of the Treasury, saying that although he disagreed with Obama’s choice of Lew, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget, he believed Obama had the right to choose members of his own Cabinet.
"I am bending over backwards to show deference to the president’s nomination and I hope that doesn’t go unnoticed," Hatch said at the time.
Apparently it did.
“I betcha if this was reversed, and their president was trying to get his Cabinet filled, and we tried to pull a stunt like this, there’d be no end of screaming and shouting and irritation all over Capitol Hill,” Hatch said on Tuesday.