Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday used parliamentary procedures to bypass a Democratic boycott and approve President Trump's Treasury Secretary pick, Steven Mnuchin, and his Health Secretary choice, Tom Price, on consecutive 14-0 votes with no Democrats participating.
The move, which sets the stage for a vote on the two candidates by the full Senate, comes after all the Democratic Senators on the panel boycotted what was supposed to be a confirmation vote and proceeding on Tuesday to consider Mnuchin and Price.
Senate Finance Committee Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, passed a so-called "unanimous consent motion," to suspend a rule that would have required a quorum of one-third of committee members, including a member from each party, to be present. "The only thing missing was a member from the minority side," Hatch said. "But, as I noted, they, on their own accord, refused to participate in this exercise."
Hatch said the committee took "some unprecedented actions" today due to the "unprecedented action" of the Democrats on the committee.
A vote on the two candidates had originally been planned for Monday evening. However, Democratic senators on the committee said they had asked to postpone the vote on Mnuchin so they could attend a candlelight vigil that evening to protest an executive order signed Friday that banned certain immigrants and refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for a period of time.
However, none of the Democrats showed up for the rescheduled committee meeting set to vote on the candidates on Tuesday, in a move that came as tensions flared after Trump dismissed Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to back the executive order.
On Tuesday, Senate Democrats reportedly raised questions about whether Mnuchin mislead senators at his confirmation hearing over the extent of his foreign investment in finance entities he helped manage.
A number of Democrats on the panel had indicated in prepared statements that they were going to vote against Mnuchin's confirmation over their worries that he would dismantle the post-2008 crisis response Dodd-Frank Act and over concerns that he played a central role in a scandal involving robo-signing foreclosure documents.
At Mnuchin's confirmation hearing, Democrats focused much of their criticism of the Treasury Secretary nominee's oversight of OneWest, a mortgage lender he headed during the financial crisis that faced allegations of questionable practices and foreclosed on thousands of homes.
Mnuchin in 2009 led a group of investors that bought embattled mortgage lender IndyMac from the government for $1.6 billion. They renamed it OneWest. OneWest was sold to CIT Group (CIT) - Get Report in 2015 for $3.4 billion. Bloomberg estimates Mnuchin may have made $380 million on the deal.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and the highest ranking Democrat on the panel, said in a statement that he opposed Mnuchin's confirmation, arguing that OneWest, under Mnuchin's leadership, engaged in so-called "robo-signing" foreclosure documents, which is the practice of assigning bank employees to rapidly approve numerous foreclosures with only cursory glances at the glut of paperwork to determine if all the documents are in order. Wyden also cited a OneWest vice president, under Mnuchin, that admitted to "robo-signing" 750 foreclosure documents a week.