Senate Democrats are as furious with President-elect Trump’s Cabinet picks as they are powerless to stop them.
Thanks to a change to Senate rules that Democrats forced on Republicans in 2013, it only takes 51 votes to confirm a nominee, except for Supreme Court nominees, which will still require 60 votes. Republicans will have 51 or 52 seats in the Senate next year, which means the GOP can approve anyone they want to Trump’s team as long as they all agree.
Without the rule change, Trump’s team might very well be carefully weighing whether it can scrounge up the eight Senate Democrats needed to secure a confirmation. But the simple majority vote is significantly reducing the value of statements like the one Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., made this week about Trump’s choice to have Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Tom Price has led the charge to privatize Medicare, and for this reason, I cannot support his nomination,” he said.
Thanks to the rule change, Donnelly’s “no” vote on Price will hardly matter, something that other Democrats seemed to acknowledge this week.
Democrats like Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., oppose Price because of his opposition to Obamacare. But even she was left to admit that Democrats’ only resort is to “fight back” by asking “tough questions in the committee.”
Murray also said the Democrats may only be left with the option of trying to influence public opinion by making Trump’s nominees look bad during their hearing. She talked about putting a “spotlight” on Price’s plans.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., seemed to have the same idea. He said Price would “get a lot of very strong and very thorough questions,” and said he hopes public pressure will give Democrats a “chance” to scuttle the nomination.