How Republicans Plan To Distract From Critical Confirmation Hearings

Vice President-elect Mike Pence is welcomed at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, by House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. following a closed-door meeting with the GOP caucus. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Vice President-elect Mike Pence is welcomed at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, by House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. following a closed-door meeting with the GOP caucus. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

(ANALYSIS) — The Republican party appears to be employing a strategy wherein the public—and even lawmakers—will be too distracted to place much needed scrutiny on President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees.

Not only are six major confirmation hearings now scheduled for the same day (see below)—”preventing any one nominee from dominating a news cycle,” as the Washington Post put it—but Trump himself rescheduled a long-awaited press conference for that very day: January 11. And that same Wednesday also happens to be when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to begin a so-called vote-o-rama, “in which senators take dozens and dozens of votes on amendments with no clear end,” Politico explains.

Indeed, as Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told NPR of secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson’s hearing in particular: “It may well happen on a day where we are literally voting continuously for 24 hours. I don’t think that’s the right day to hold a hearing where the members of the Foreign Relations Committee who have real concerns—both Republicans and Democrats—want to hear his full answers, not just race in and out.”

But that could be just what some Republicans are hoping for.

“The GOP leadership’s approach will minimize unflattering process stories and prevent Trump’s nominees from receiving the kind of full airing and scrutiny that they would otherwise,” James Hohmann wrote for the Post. “It’s the political equivalent of running a no-huddle offense in the first quarter and throwing a lot of deep balls when you know the defense is outmatched. The other side’s best safety is still recovering from a pulled hamstring, and the defensive coordinator is distracted by the head coaching job he’s going to take next season. The odds are that Team Trump will score a bunch of touchdowns.”

According to the Senate calendar and various news outlets, here’s where the schedule stands thus far:

Tuesday, January 10:

  • Judiciary — Jeff Sessions (Attorney General)

Wednesday, January 11:

  • Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions — Betsy DeVos (Education)
  • Commerce, Science, and Transportation — Elaine Chao (Transportation)
  • Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs — John Kelly (Homeland Security)
  • Foreign Relations — Rex Tillerson (Secretary of State)
  • Judiciary — Jeff Sessions (Attorney General; Day 2)
  • Intelligence — Mike Pompeo (CIA)

Thursday, January 12:

  • Armed Services — James Mattis (Defense)

Wednesday, January 18:

  • Health, Education, Labor and Pensions —Tom Price (Health and Human Services)

Additionally, Politico reports that the hearing for Ben Carson, Trump’s pick for Housing and Urban Development secretary, will take place at the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee during the week of January 9; and that the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing on Labor nominee Andrew Puzder during the week of January 16.

According to CNN, hearings for Steven Mnuchin (Treasury), Scott Pruit (EPA), Mike Mulvaney (Office of Management and Budget), Ryan Zinke (Interior), Rick Perry (Energy), and Nikki Haley (UN Ambassador) have yet to be scheduled.


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