Sen. Blumenthal calls for halt to Senate confirmation hearings

NEW YORK -- Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is calling for a halt to Senate confirmation hearings until all of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks go through background checks.

Congress can’t officially confirm Mr. Trump’s nominees until after he’s sworn in, but they can hold hearings to help expedite the process and get nominations ready for Inauguration Day -- which is why the coming week is packed with hearings, CBS News’ Emily Schultheis reports. 

Each nominee will first have a hearing with the Senate committee that has oversight responsibilities for his or her department. Once the committee holds a vote and approves the nominee, the full Senate will vote on each candidate.

On Twitter on Monday, Blumenthal said he believes no Cabinet nominee should be considered without financial disclosure and background checks. 

“I am calling for a timeout until necessary info submitted,” he tweeted.

Blumenthal joined “Red & Blue,” CBSN’s new political show, from Capitol Hill on Monday evening to discuss his position on the nominees, and why he believes background checks and financial disclosures are crucial.

“The background check process by the FBI discloses things as simple as whether someone has been arrested, whether someone has made statements that may indicate extreme prejudice or bias or bigotry, what is in someone’s past in terms of other conflicts of interest,” Blumenthal told CBSN’s Eliane Quijano. “And the financial disclosure form enables us to know what that person’s dealings have been.”

Blumenthal went on to say that someone at a lower level, bureaucratic level in the federal government, would have to disclose these kind of materials before they were ever even considered by the White House for an appointment.

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Sen. Richard Blumenthal during an interview with CBSN on Monday, Jan. 9, 2016. 

CBS News

“Here we have some of the most important public positions of trust and responsibility and still we don’t have basic information to use when we question them in a hearing,” he said. 

Blumenthal said he has reservations about several nominees, including Sen. Tom Price who has been nominated to become Secretary of Health and Human Services. 

“Because of his extreme opposition to any form of health insurance, as well as his opposition to women’s healthcare,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said he also has concerns about Scott Pruitt who is nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is Mr. Trump’s pick for U.S. attorney general.

During the interview Monday with CBSN, Blumenthal also discussed GOP lawmakers’ plan to repeal Obamacare. 

“Abolishing it, repealing it, without a replacement is just wrong,” Blumenthal said. 

Regarding the Monday development that Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner will be named senior White House adviser, Blumenthal said the move “will raise questions in terms of potential conflicts of interest.”

“He is very closely associated with at least one bank that is under investigation, criminal investigation, apparently and reportedly,” Blumenthal said. “He also has continued real-estate interest in New York and other parts of the world...so there are going to be questions. And he is a special adviser which means there is no Senate confirmation, but there will still be very serious inquiry of what his involvement might be in certain kinds of ongoing activity.”

Senate GOP leaders have said the hearings will proceed as planned, and that all the nominees will receive appropriate vetting in time for their hearings. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that Republicans aim to have at least seven Cabinet picks confirmed on the day Mr. Trump is sworn in -- the same number that President Obama had in 2009.  

To see the entire interview with Blumenthal on “Red & Blue,” watch the video above.