The Senate Republicans have jumped on the Trump Cabinet train, and seem to be trying to push through the nominations at breakneck pace. Wednesday alone they plan to have five confirmation hearings, with controversial nominees including former Exxon boss Rex Tillerson, who is up for the Secretary of State position, among them. Democrats aren't terribly excited about this, but the schedule's just the beginning. One problem with Trump's cabinet confirmation hearings start date is that the senators don't have all the information they need to begin.
As the head of the Office of Government Ethics wrote in a letter to senators Friday, the proper vetting and background checks won't be finished in time for the first hearings — something unheard of since the office was first created. Head of the agency Walter Shaub wrote to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren:
This schedule has created undue pressure on OGE's staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews. ... I am not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the Senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominee had completed the ethics review process.
That's outrageous. According to the release, some of the nominees haven't even submitted first drafts of their reviews — at less than a week from the start of hearings. How are the senators even supposed to know what questions to ask if they don't have all the background information in the first place? The New York Times reported that Republicans expect to have all the documents turned in eventually. But when? Not before the hearings evidently.
That's unacceptable, as explained by Sen. Warren in a series of tweets. "Cabinet officials must put our country's interests before their own. No [confirmation] hearings should be held until we’re certain that’s the case," she wrote. She also accused the nominees of dragging their feet while the Senate tries to run the clock.
Sen. Schumer originally released the letter from the Office of Government Ethics to the public. His office responded with an argument that this is not a partisan issue, but rather one that both parties should follow to ensure that all of Trump's appointments. Schumer explained his position in a statement:
Rather than ensuring that nominees are thoroughly vetted and will remove themselves from conflicts of interests, Senate Republicans are trying to ram them through as quickly as possible. Instead, Republicans should work with Democrats to establish a fair, deliberate hearing schedule that includes all the necessary ethics agreements and background checks required in the vetting process.
But the Republicans don't seem to care much. This is ironic, considering it's the minimum that they required back when Obama appointed his cabinet. Not only do the Republicans not care, the news media isn't picking up the issue much either. Media Matters reported that the Sunday political news shows barely touched the topic. Given the potential for problems later — not just for the Republicans but the whole country — that is just insane.
If you feel the urge to slow things down, the best way to do so would be to tell your senator that you want the background checks and vetting to happen first. You can find yours here.