Trump picks face tough con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings

Se­nate rarely re­jects Cab­i­net nom­i­na­tions

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nees are headed for bru­tal con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings, and his choice of Exxon­Mo­bil CEO Rex Tiller­son for sec­re­tary of state is shap­ing up to be the most gru­el­ing, but his­tory shows that the Se­nate rarely musters the nerve to re­ject Cab­i­net picks.

Only nine Cab­i­net nom­i­nees in U.S. his­tory have been de­feated in com­mit­tee or Se­nate votes, although 12 oth­ers have been withdrawn in the face of strong op­po­si­tion. The last time a nom­i­nee was de­feated out­right came in 1989, when for­mer Sen. John Tower, Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s pick for de­fense sec­re­tary, went down in a party-line vote in a Demo­crat-ma­jor­ity Se­nate.

Nearly ev­ery one of Mr. Trump’s nom­i­nees has en­coun­tered ob­jec­tions from Se­nate Democrats, from ac­cu­sa­tions that his pick for the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, Ok­la­homa At­tor­ney Gen­eral Scott Pruitt, is anti-en­vi­ron­ment to charges his choice to head the La­bor De­part­ment, fast­food ti­tan An­drew F. Puzder, is anti-worker.

The ex­pected nom­i­na­tion of for­mer Texas Gov. Rick Perry for sec­re­tary of en­ergy met op­po­si­tion from Democrats and lib­eral groups that noted he once pro­posed elim­i­nat­ing the En­ergy De­part­ment.

Mr. Tiller­son en­coun­tered the stiffest op­po­si­tion yet, in­clud­ing from sev­eral Repub­li­can se­na­tors who said they share Democrats’ con­cerns about his close busi­ness ties to Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

In the past, how­ever, nom­i­na­tions were more likely to be de­railed over per­son­al­ity than pol­icy.

Mr. Tower, the only for­mer sen­a­tor to be de­nied con­fir­ma­tion in a vote by his col­leagues, was re­jected amid re­ports of past drink­ing prob­lems and claims that it ren­dered him un­fit for of­fice.

Prior to Mr. Tower’s ill-fated nom­i­na­tion, his­to­ri­ans have to go back to Dwight Eisen­hower’s pick of Lewis L. Strauss for com­merce sec­re­tary in 1959 to find another con­fir­ma­tion ca­su­alty. Mr. Strauss, who played a key role in for­mu­lat­ing early U.S. nu­clear weapon pol­icy, was known for his prickly dis­po­si­tion, which proved his big­gest li­a­bil­ity and ul­ti­mately un­der­mined his nom­i­na­tion.

In that case as well, a Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate de­nied the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent’s choice.

In re­cent years, it has been more com­mon for a nom­i­na­tion to be withdrawn rather than suf­fer the hu­mil­i­a­tion of be­ing voted down. Since 1996 six nom­i­na­tion have been withdrawn: three of Bill Clin­ton’s, two of Ge­orge W. Bush’s and one of Mr. Obama’s.

Mr. Obama’s choice for health and hu­man ser­vices sec­re­tary, for­mer Sen. Tom Daschle, with­drew over ques­tions about his tax re­turns and his work as a lob­by­ist, which ap­peared to con­tra­dict the pres­i­dent’s campaign pledge to bring change to Wash­ing­ton. Mr. Daschle’s nom­i­na­tion foundered de­spite fel­low Se­nate Democrats be­ing in the ma­jor­ity.

Se­na­tors re­vere their con­sti­tu­tional duty of “ad­vice and con­sent” over nom­i­na­tions, but they also pride them­selves on show­ing def­er­ence to pres­i­dents in fill­ing their Cab­i­nets. That ex­plains the rar­ity of nom­i­nees

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Repub­li­cans share Democrats’ con­cerns that Exxon­Mo­bil chair­man and CEO Rex Tiller­son, Don­ald Trump’s se­lec­tion for sec­re­tary of state, is too close to Rus­sian in­ter­ests.

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