NewsPolitics Trump's Cabinet: Senate confirmation hearings for nominees recapped By Nicole Brown and Lauren Cook with Reuters Updated March 2, 2017 2:21 PM Print Share Share Tweet Share Email Some of the Senate confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees haven't been entirely cordial. Democrats have been critical of a number of Trump's picks and have delayed voting on some, including Tom Price and Steven Mnuchin. Republicans were forced to suspend a committee rule that required a Democrat to be present in order to move the nominations forward. The full Senate later approved Price as health and human services secretary and Mnuchin as Treasury secretary, as well as other nominees, including Rick Perry as energy secretary, Ben Carson as secretary of housing and urban development, Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator, Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, Betsy DeVos as education secretary and Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. If you missed the hearings or just need a refresher on the main points, here's a quick recap of each so far. Rick Perry: Energy secretary Photo Credit: Getty Images / Aaron P. Bernstein Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was confirmed as Trump's energy secretary by the full Senate on March 2, 2017. He was approved in a 62-37 vote. Perry's nomination for energy secretary was advanced by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Jan. 31, 2017. The vote was 16 to 7. Perry took questions from the committee on Jan. 19, 2017. The former Republican candidate for president admitted during the hearing that climate change is partially caused by humans -- marking a shift from his past statements on global warming -- but said efforts to address climate change should be done in "a thoughtful way that doesn't compromise economic growth, the affordability of energy or American jobs." Perry's leadership would be a shift for the Energy Department from being run by learned scientists to someone who is known for close ties to the oil and gas industry. Democrats expressed worry that Perry would weaken the Energy Department's functions and cut the department's climate science budget, but Perry said, "I am going to protect the men and women of the scientific community from anyone who would attack them." The governor said much of his focus would be on renewing the nuclear weapons arsenal, and he added that he regrets having called for the department's elimination during his failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. "After being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination," he said. Ben Carson: Secretary of housing and urban development Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Saul Loeb The Senate confirmed Ben Carson to be secretary of housing and urban development on March 2, 2017 with a vote of 58-41. The former Republican presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon was endorsed by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on Jan. 24, 2017. During his hearing on Jan. 12, 2017, Democrats had pushed Carson on how he plans to handle potential conflicts of interest between his future department and properties Trump may have financial stakes in. Carson said he would monitor any potential conflicts, but failed to provide an answer on how he would go about the task. "I would hope what would happen with this committee is that we could come up with a suggestion that might be acceptable to all sides," he told the panel. The majority of Carson's prepared remarks were focused on his youth in Detroit and he offered few insights on his housing policy plans. Ryan Zinke: Secretary of the Interior Photo Credit: Getty Images / Alex Wong Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) was approved to serve as Interior Department secretary with a vote of 68-31 on March 1, 2017. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee had advanced Zinke's nomination on Jan. 31, 2017 with a vote of 16-6. Zinke was questioned by the committee on Jan. 17, 2017. He told lawmakers he would consider an expansion of drilling and mining on federal lands, but he also vowed to protect sensitive regions. "I can guarantee you it is better to produce energy domestically under reasonable regulation than overseas with no regulation ... We need an economy," he said. The hearing was mostly genial compared with some of the more hot-tempered confirmation hearings for Trump's Cabinet nominees. Wilbur Ross: Secretary of commerce Photo Credit: Getty Images / Saul Loeb The Senate approved the nomination of Wilbur Ross for commerce secretary with a vote of 72-27 on Feb. 27, 2017. Ross had previously been approved by the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in January, after hearings held on Jan. 18. The investor and businessman said renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement will be the Trump administration's first trade priority. "I am not anti-trade. I am pro-trade," Ross said. "But I am pro-sensible trade, not trade that is to the disadvantage of the American worker and to the American manufacturing community." Ross also took a tough stance on China, calling the country the "most protectionist" among large economies. He said he would work to reduce China's high tariff and other barriers to commerce. Ross said he will give up his board seat at Arcelor Mittal and sell his investments, valued at up to about $300 million, in order to avoid conflicts of interest. Scott Pruitt: EPA administrator Photo Credit: Getty Images / Aaron P. Bernstein Trump's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, was confirmed by the Senate in a 52-46 vote on Feb. 17, 2017. The Oklahoma attorney general had first been approved by a Senate committee on Feb. 2, 2017, despite a boycott of his nomination by the panel's Democratic members. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee temporarily suspended several rules to approve Pruitt and send his nomination to the full Senate. Pruitt fielded questions from the committee on Jan. 18, 2017. Pruitt has sued the agency he intends to run more than a dozen times on behalf of his state. He is expected to carry out Trump's campaign vows to slash EPA regulation to boost drilling and mining. Pruitt expressed some doubt about the science behind global climate change during his hearing. "Science tells us that the climate is changing, and that human activity, in some manner, impacts that change," he said. "The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialog." The nominee, who was interrupted by protesters shouting "There is no planet B," said he would aim to make the EPA's rules effective without hurting development and give states more authority to regulate environmental issues. Mick Mulvaney: Office of Management and Budget director Photo Credit: Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla Rep. Mick Mulvaney was confirmed by the Senate to head the Office of Management and Budget on Feb. 16, 2017, with a vote of 51-49. The Senate Budget Committee and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 12-11 and 8-7, respectively, to advance his nomination on Feb. 2, 2017. The congressman had gone before the committees on Jan. 24, 2017. He told the senators that changing "the way Washington spends and taxes" and reducing debt would be his priorities as the budget director. "The debt is a problem that must be addressed sooner rather than later," he said. On social security, the representative said he would not support cuts that take benefits from current retirees, but he could support a rise in the age for receiving benefits. Sen. John McCain pressed Mulvaney on why he voted in favor of cutting military spending. Mulvaney responded that he didn't remember those votes, but that did not appease McCain. "I am deeply concerned about your lack of support for our military," he said. Mulvaney was also questioned on his failure to pay $15,000 in taxes by not declaring his family's nanny on his tax return. Mulvaney said he did not realize the error until the vetting for his nomination. "We made a mistake in my family," he said. Linda McMahon: Small Business Administration administrator Photo Credit: Getty Images / Win McNamee Linda McMahon, Trump's choice to lead the Small Business Administration, was confirmed by the Senate, with a vote of 81-19, on Feb. 14, 2017. She was approved by the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship on Jan. 31, 2017 with a vote of 18 in favor and 1 against. McMahon appeared at a friendly hearing on Jan. 24, 2017, during which she spoke in opposition to restrictive regulations on small businesses and said she would be an advocate for small businesses led by females, minorities and veterans. "Small businesses want to feel they can take a risk on expansion or a new hire without fearing onerous new regulations or unexpected taxes, fees and fines that will make such growth unaffordable," she said. The former chief executive of the World Wrestling Entertainment shared a personal experience about growing her family business after an early bankruptcy filing. "I know what it's like to take a hit," she said. McMahon was endorsed by two Democrats who defeated her in her failed runs for the Senate in Connecticut, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen. Chris Murphy. Steven Mnuchin: Treasury secretary Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mark Wilson In a 53-47 vote, the Senate confirmed Steven Mnuchin as Trump's Treasury secretary on Feb. 13, 2017. The vote was largely split along party lines, with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia being the only Democrat to vote in favor of Mnuchin. Mnuchin had previously been approved by the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 1, despite attempts by Democrats to block the vote. In order to hold the committee vote, Republicans were forced to suspend a rule that required at least one Democrat to be present for business to be conducted. Democrats had boycotted the vote for two days in an attempt to block Mnuchin's confirmation. The former Goldman Sachs Group executive and hedge fund manager appeared before the Senate Finance Committee on Jan. 19, 2017. Mnuchin was questioned about his use of offshore tax havens in the Cayman Islands, which he did not disclose until recently. He told senators that the reason he moved his Dune Capital Partners LLC registry to the Caymans was to allow for some pension fund clients to invest in his funds, not to avoid taxes. Mnuchin added that he would like to work with the IRS to fix tax issues that encourage the use of offshore tax havens. The former Goldman Sachs executive also defended himself against accusations that his OneWest Bank had profited at the expense of vulnerable homeowners in the aftermath of the 2007-2009 housing crash. Democrats cited the 36,000 foreclosures that the bank had pursued. Mnuchin argued that the bank offered payment reductions to over 100,000 borrowers and by saving the bank, he helped save thousands of jobs and homes. David Shulkin: Veterans Affairs secretary Photo Credit: Getty Images / Zach Gibson The Senate unanimously approved David Shulkin's nomination for Veterans Affairs secretary on Feb. 13, 2017. He had been recommended with a unanimous vote in favor of his nomination by the Veterans Affairs Committee. Shulkin, who served as the department's secretary of health, appeared before the committee on Feb. 1, 2017. He told the senators he would work to reform veterans' health care, but he would not privatize it. Trump has been very critical of the Department of Veterans Affairs and has said veterans should have their choice of private health care, but Shulkin said Trump did not give him any preconditions about the role. "He knows I would have to follow my values," he said. Shulkin also told the senators that he will help make improvements to the department after the scandal over how long it took for veterans to get the medical attention they needed. "I am focused on meeting the most urgent health-care needs of our veterans first and reorganized our approach to reflect that," he said in his opening remarks. "As a result, we've dramatically reduced the number of people waiting for urgent care." Tom Price: Secretary of health and human services Photo Credit: Getty Images / Alex Wong The Senate confirmed Rep. Tom Price as Trump's secretary of health and human services on Feb. 10, 2017. He was approved by a vote of 52-47. The Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 1, 2017, voted to send his nomination to the full Senate. The committee vote took place after Republicans suspended a panel rule that required at least one Democrat to be present for business to be conducted. Democrats had boycotted the committee vote for two days in an attempt to block Price's confirmation. All Republican members of the committee were present and approved Price 14-0. Price went before the Senate Committee on Finance on Jan. 24, 2017. While answering questions about repealing the Affordable Care Act, Price, a Georgia orthopedic surgeon, said he intends to ensure that people with pre-existing conditions have affordable access to health insurance, though he did not specify how. "I commit that we will not abandon individuals with pre-existing illness or disease," he said. Price also weighed in on Medicare, saying he does not support privatization of the program. Price's stance is in line with Trump's, who promised during his campaign that he would not cut Medicare. That was Price's second appearance before a Senate committee since his nomination. He also went before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Jan. 18, 2017. During the Jan. 18 hearing, Price also spoke about the plan to repeal Obamacare, saying a replacement for the Affordable Care Act would be unveiled in the next few months but implemented over several years. He added that "nobody's interested in pulling the rug out from under anybody," and he stressed that the goal is not to have people lose health insurance. Price also defended his personal stock investments after The Wall Street Journal had reported he traded more than $300,000 worth of shares in health-related companies over the past four years, while backing legislation that potentially could affect those companies' stocks. Price said the stocks were bought on his behalf by a broker. "I had no knowledge of those purchases," he said. He added that he will divest his stocks to prevent conflicts of interest. Jeff Sessions: Attorney general Photo Credit: Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump's choice for U.S. attorney general, was confirmed by the full Senate on Feb. 8, 2017. He was approved in a 52-47 vote. Sessions' nomination was advanced to a full Senate vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 1. 2017. The GOP Alabama senator appeared before the committee on Jan. 10. During his hearing, Sessions was interrupted by protesters, some of whom dressed in KKK robes. The senator was denied confirmation to a federal judgeship in 1986 because of allegations that he made racist remarks. Sessions defended his record on civil rights during the hearing. "I abhor the Klan and what it represents and its hateful ideology," he said. The senator also distanced himself from some of Trump's policies, saying he would not support a full Muslim ban, he would enforce the law outlawing waterboarding, and he would recuse himself from any investigations into Hillary Clinton's emails. Betsy DeVos: Secretary of education Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Brendan Smialowski Betsy DeVos, Trump's controversial pick for education secretary, was confirmed by the Senate on Feb. 7, 2017, after a tiebreaking vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence. Two Republicans had joined with 46 Democrats and two independents in opposition to DeVos, leaving the Senate split 50-50. Senate officials said Pence's tiebreaking vote was unprecedented. DeVos' confirmation had been narrowly pushed forward by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Jan. 31. The 12 Republicans on the committee had voted yes, while the 11 Democrats on the committee voted no. At her hearing on Jan. 17, 2017, Democrats questioned DeVos' credentials to be the education secretary, attacking her for having little experience with public schooling and financial aid. The billionaire businesswoman said she, or her children, did not attend public schools, did not have to take out loans for education and did not receive federal financial aid. "Do you think if you were not a multibillionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions to the Republican party, that you would be sitting here today?" Sen. Bernie Sanders asked DeVos. The nominee has been an advocate for charter schools and school vouchers, arguing that they offer low-income families the choice in education that wealthy families have. But Democrats argued that voucher programs have not helped poor students. Many senators were dismayed when DeVos would not pledge to carry out rules on sexual assault, gun-free school zones and laws to keep for-profit colleges accountable. She instead said she would review the policies. Democrats also pressed DeVos on how she would manage her investments and companies in the education sector while heading the Education Department. Rex Tillerson: Secretary of state Photo Credit: Getty Images / Alex Wong The Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson as secretary of state on Feb. 1, 2017. In the vote, 56 senators backed Tillerson, and 43 voted no. Tillerson previously narrowly won approval from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jan. 23, 2017. That vote was 11-10. The former CEO of Exxon Mobil appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jan. 11, 2017. He was questioned primarily on Russia during a nine-hour hearing. As the leader of Exxon Mobil, Tillerson worked closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past. When pressed by Sen. Marco Rubio, Tillerson would not call Putin a war criminal, but he said the United States needs to push harder against Putin's efforts to expand Russia's influence. Rubio and Tillerson also butted heads over human rights. Tillerson said he would not condemn countries like Saudi Arabia and the Philippines for human rights abuses before he had more information, but Rubio accused him of ignoring credible reports of violations. Rubio initially said he could not commit to supporting Tillerson's nomination, but later changed his mind. Elaine Chao: Secretary of transportation Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Chris Kleponis The Senate approved Elaine Chao to become the next secretary of the Department of Transportation on Jan. 31, 2017. Chao, a former secretary of labor and deputy transportation secretary, took questions from the Senate committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on Jan. 11, 2017. In a friendly hearing, Chao defended Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure plan as a "bold vision" and said it will require cooperation with investors, Congress and the administration. "As the infrastructure proposal is being put together, we will certainly be in great discussion with the Congress," she said. Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was overwhelming confirmed by the full Senate. Nikki Haley: U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Photo Credit: Getty Images / Saul Loeb The Senate approved South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for her new role as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Jan. 24, 2017. Haley appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a week earlier on Jan. 18, 2017. The former governor had echoed Trump's criticism of the United Nations, particularly criticizing the Security Council resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building that the United States declined to veto. "The American people see the UN's mistreatment of Israel, its failure to prevent the North Korean nuclear threat, its waste and corruption, and they are fed up," she said. But she separated herself from Trump on Russia, saying she considered Russian actions in Syria, including bombing hospitals, "war crimes." Some senators expressed concerns about Haley's lack of diplomatic experience, but Haley said her experience as a governor has prepared her for the role. "I would suggest there is nothing more important to a governor's success than her ability to unite those with different backgrounds, viewpoints and objectives behind a common purpose," she said. Mike Pompeo: CIA director Photo Credit: Getty Images / Joe Raedle Rep. Mike Pompeo, Trump's nominee for CIA director, was confirmed in a vote of the full Senate on Jan. 23, 2017. Shortly afterward, he was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence. Some lawmakers had been worried Pompeo would expand surveillance or allow interrogation techniques that are widely considered torture, but by the end of the night, 66 senators backed his nomination and only 32 voted against him. The former Kansas representative had appeared before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Jan. 12, 2017, and, seeking to bridge the gap between harsh criticism from Trump and the intelligence community, told the panel he intends to "have their backs at every single moment." He also said that unlike Trump, he never doubted the intelligence findings on Russian hacking related to the 2016 election. "You have my commitment that every day, I will not only speak truth to power, but I will demand that the men and the women (of the CIA) ... follow my instruction to do that each and every day," he said. When asked about the use of illegal enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects, Pompeo vowed he would stand firm against Trump on the issue and signaled it would take a change in the law for him to consider any use of such techniques. During his presidential campaign, Trump had suggested that some techniques banned by Congress, such as waterboarding, should be brought back. Gen. James Mattis: Secretary of defense Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Mandel Ngan Just over a week after his confirmation hearing, the Senate voted overwhelmingly on Jan. 20, 2017, to approve retired Gen. James Mattis as secretary of defense. Mattis had appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 12, 2017. Mattis was among one of Trump's Cabinet choices to break from his campaign rhetoric on Russia, saying he would put the country at the top of a list of threats to U.S. interests. "I'm all for engagement, but we also have to recognize reality in what Russia is up to," Mattis said. When asked about the possibility of new U.S. sanctions against Russia, Mattis said he intends to "craft a strategy to confront Russia for what it's done" with the help of Trump's new national security team. Mattis also cleared a major hurdle by securing a waiver needed for him to take the secretary of defense job. Mattis was technically ineligible for the job since he has not been a civilian for at least seven years. On Wednesday, Jan. 18, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted in favor of recommending Mattis for the defense secretary position. John Kelly: Secretary of homeland security Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Tasos Katopodis The Senate confirmed John Kelly as secretary of homeland security on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, in an overwhelming 88-11-1 vote. Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, appeared before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Jan. 10, 2017. Kelly was asked about a number of Trump's policy positions, including building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico boarder and a Muslim registry. "I don't agree with registering people based on ethnicity or religion," Kelly said. On Trump's proposal to build a wall, Kelly said he does not think a physical barrier alone will stop the flow of immigrants and drugs. "A physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job," he said. 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