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Senate panel bypasses Democratic boycott, approves HHS, Treasury picks

Mnuchin, Price votes

The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday approved President Trump’s picks for Health and Treasury secretaries after Republicans decided to suspend the panel’s rules and vote without any Democrats present.

The rule they suspended had required at least one Democrat to be present for votes. It was the latest escalation in partisan tensions in the new Congress. 

The Senate Finance Committee approved Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia, to become Health and Human Services secretary and financier Steve Mnuchin to be Treasury secretary by a pair of 14-0 votes.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the panel’s chairman, said the Senate Parliamentarian said such a change is consistent with committee and Senate rules. 

“We took some unprecedented actions today due to the unprecedented obstruction on the part of our colleagues. As I noted earlier, the Senate Finance Committee has traditionally been able to function in even the most divisive political environments. Personally, as longtime member of this committee, I have been proud of that distinction,” Hatch said. “And, in my time as both Ranking Member and Chairman of this committee, I have bent over backwards to preserve its unique status as one of the few places where Republicans and Democrats not only work together, but achieve results.  That all changed yesterday.”

Democrats boycotted the meeting a day earlier, demanding time to ask more questions about both nominees. Democrats say there were unresolved questions about both nominees’ financial backgrounds.

CBS News’ Alan He contributed to this report.

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