Opposition to Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominations mounted on Capitol Hill and across the country Tuesday, as Senate Democrats boycotted two scheduled committee votes and dozens of people were arrested at a series of protests nationwide. Led by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, Democratic lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee stalled the confirmations of treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin and health and human services secretary nominee Tom Price by refusing to attend the committee meeting. Under committee rules, if no Democrats attend the hearing, the committee can’t vote. The lawmakers accused Mnuchin and Price of lying to the committees during their nomination hearings. Amid the Democratic boycott, protesters staged a sit-in to block the entrance to the office of Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch, the Republican senator from Utah, as a protest against Tom Price’s nomination. At least 47 people were arrested. Democratic lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee also delayed a vote on the confirmation of Jeff Sessions for attorney general Tuesday by making extended speeches. This is California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “Instead, he has been the fiercest, most dedicated and most loyal promoter in Congress of the Trump agenda and has played a critical role in the clearinghouse for policy and philosophy to undergird the implementation of that agenda. With this in mind, I must vote no.”
Jeff Sessions’s confirmation has faced a series of protests over his opposition to the Voting Rights Act and his history of making racist comments. On Monday, about 10 members of the NAACP, including President Cornell William Brooks, were arrested at a sit-in at Sessions’s office in Mobile, Alabama. It was the second NAACP sit-in against Sessions’s confirmation. On Tuesday, retired Army Colonel Ann Wright disrupted the Senate Judiciary Committee in protest of Sessions.
Ann Wright: “No to racism! No to the ban on refugees! Wait! Oh, wait! Oh! Oww! I’ll go out, but you don’t need to drag me. I’ve got a hip replacement. I’m 70 years old, and I can make it out on my own. But no to racism! No to hate! No to Jeff Sessions! No to the ban on refugees!”
More protests against Jeff Sessions and Trump’s other Cabinet nominations erupted Tuesday. In New York City, thousands of protesters gathered outside the home of Senator Chuck Schumer, calling on him to oppose Trump’s Cabinet picks. In a separate protest also in New York City, 11 protesters, including Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, were arrested blocking traffic outside Trump Tower to oppose the nominations. In Chicago, at least seven protesters were arrested after hundreds staged a sit-in at the Federal Building to demand Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth vote against billionaire Betsy DeVos for education secretary, which they did. Nevertheless, DeVos was among three of Trump’s Cabinet picks who were approved by Senate committees Tuesday. The Senate education committee voted 12-11 to approve DeVos in a straight party vote, even though The Washington Post reports DeVos appears to have plagiarized parts of her written answers submitted to the Senate committee. Also on Tuesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 16-7 to approve former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as energy secretary and voted 16-6 to approve Montana Congressmember Ryan Zinke to head the Interior Department. DeVos, Perry and Zinke will now all face full Senate votes on their confirmation. The full Senate also voted Tuesday to confirm Elaine Chao to become transportation secretary.