Today, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) took the unprecedented step to suspend the rules of the Senate Finance Committee by unanimous consent with no Democrats present. They then voted, again with no Democrats present, to advance the nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services, as well as the nomination of Steve Mnuchin to serve as Treasury Secretary.
Democrats had boycotted the Senate Finance Committee markup of the nominees yesterday, preventing the committee from reaching a quorum to vote on the nominees. In a letter to Senator Hatch, Democrats explained that both nominees have yet to answer all of their questions and, gave inaccurate and misleading testimony and responses to questions. In addition, Mnuchin failed to respond to questions for data regarding the foreclosure practices of OneWest. There are also serious ethics concerns around Rep. Price’s nomination.
By boycotting the meeting, Democrats hoped Republicans would wait to markup the nominees until these issues were addressed. Instead, Sen. Hatch’s unprecedented move to advance the nominees without Democrats in the room took the country one step closer to having one of the most anti-LGBTQ Secretaries of Health and Human Services in modern history. You can read more about Rep. Price’s record in HRC’s report, Tom Price: A History of Anti-LGBTQ Actions.
Also today, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions to be attorney general on an 11-9 party line vote. Democrats successfully delayed his vote yesterday by invoking the two-hour rule, which states that committees may only meet for two hours after the Senate convenes, and making speeches of opposition until the two-hour mark was hit.
Senator Sessions has spent a lifetime in public service devoted to proudly denying equality and justice for LGBTQ people. As Attorney General of Alabama and as a U.S. Senator, Jeff Sessions has not only ignored every opportunity to protect the LGBTQ community from violence, discrimination, and marginalization, but he has actively used his positions to stand against equality for LGBTQ Americans in nearly every form. His vote on the full senate is expected on Monday. You can read more about Sessions’ record in HRC’s report Jeff Sessions: A History of Anti-LGBTQ Actions.
Senator Sessions and Rep. Price’s nominations weren’t the only anti-LGBTQ nominations that moved forward this week, however. In a meeting of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), Betsy DeVos’ nomination to be Secretary of Education was advanced on a party line vote of 12-11. However, although Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) voted DeVos out of committee, they raised serious concerns during the hearing and both announced today that they would be opposing her nomination on the Senate floor.
DeVos’ record raises serious concerns about whether she will be committed to protecting the diverse populations served by the Department of Education and if she can serve every student equally. DeVos has a lengthy record of supporting anti-LGBTQ groups and causes, including organizations that have been designated as anti-LGBTQ hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. You can read more about DeVos’ failure to commit to supporting and protecting LGBTQ students in HRC’s letter of opposition to her confirmation.