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Rick Perry Confirmed to Lead Energy Department

Cue the resume-writing frenzy in Energy Department cubicles.

By a vote of 62-37, former Texas Governor Rick Perry was just confirmed as Trump’s Energy Secretary. Eleven Democratic caucus members voted to confirm Perry — Carper, Cortez Masto, Donnelly, Heitkamp, King, Manchin, McCaskill, Stabenow, Tester, Udall and Warner.

Perry’s confirmation truly becomes the icing on the cake in Trump’s selection of totally unqualified cabinet nominees by producing someone who has previously said he would abolish the very agency he will now lead.

Schumer Calls for Sessions’ Resignation

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) just called for a special prosecutor to look into Russia’s influence on the 2016 presidential election and to investigate news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have perjured himself before Congress by denying conversations with Russian officials during the campaign.

He also called on Sessions to resign.

“Because the Department of Justice should be above reproach, for the good of the country, Attorney General Sessions should resign,” said Schumer this morning. “But, whatever one’s views are on resignation, the most important thing we must do is ensure the integrity of the investigation. Has it already been compromised? What can we do to ensure it moves forward in a way that ultimately leads to the unvarnished truth?”

Ben Carson Confirmed to Lead HUD

In another triumph in the Year of Unqualified Cabinet Nominees, Ben Carson was just confirmed to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by a Senate vote of 58-41, with seven members of the Democratic caucus voting for Carson’s confirmation. Democratic caucus members voting ‘aye’ were Brown, Donnelly, Heitkamp, King, Manchin, Tester and Warner.

In addition to selecting people stunningly unqualified for the positions to which they have been nominated, Trump has taken this a step further by picking nominees who seem to oppose the very mission of the departments they are nominated to lead. As much as any other candidate in the last Republican presidential primaries, Carson expressed constant doubt about government’s ability to do anything to help people and his rhetoric has often gone further, suggesting that government often harms our most vulnerable.

“There are reasonable ways to use housing policy to enhance the opportunities available to lower-income citizens,” wrote Carson in a 2015 editorial bashing HUD under the Obama administration. “But based on the history of failed socialist experiments in this country, entrusting the government to get it right can prove downright dangerous.”

Oh, and he will also be a Housing Secretary without a sliver of housing experience.

And with that, I introduce the new head of that important department.

Zinke Confirmed to Head Interior Department

Even in the hoopla over President Mini-Mitts exceeding expectations by not wetting himself before Congress last night, I need to get back to the U.S. Senate and report that Ryan Zinke was just confirmed as Trump’s Secretary of the Interior by a vote of 68-31.

There were 16 Democrats voting in favor of Zinke’s confirmation (Bennet, Brown, Coons, Cortez Masto, Donnelly, Heinrich, Heitkamp, Kaine, Manchin, McCaskill, Murphy, Nelson, Tester, Udall, Warner, Wyden) and one Independent, Angus King.

Next up will be a confirmation vote on Ben Carson to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Ross Confirmed as Commerce Secretary

By a Senate vote of 72-27, Wilbur Ross was just confirmed as Trump’s Commerce Secretary. This ensures that even if one or two of Trump’s other cabinet members leave, we will still have an endless supply of Trump administration officials with financial ties to Vladimir Putin and Russia.

In the Democratic Caucus, 27 Senators voted against Ross and 21 voted to confirm.

Warren Persists Again – Goes After Trump and Commerce Nominee

Well, at least nobody told her to sit down this time.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who was a driving force in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before being elected to the Senate, was expected to be among the most informed and vocal of Wilbur Ross’s critics in confirmation debates and she did not disappoint earlier today.

“Mr. Ross is a Wall Street billionaire with a long history of profiting from the suffering of others,” said Warren, opening her remarks on the Senate floor. “He also has shady ties to Vladimir Putin’s Russia. That’s just his record. And because of that record, I do not have confidence that he will protect the interests of the American people as Secretary of Commerce.”

Warren then read chapter and verse on everything we know about the Trump Administration’s seemingly endless ties to Putin and listed Ross as one of the primary players in those cozy relationships.

“In this context, Mr. Ross’s connections to Russia raise dangerous issues. We know that Ross installed a former KGB official and close associate of Vladimir Putin as the vice-chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, a bank that Mr. Ross controlled and a bank that was flooded with Russian money.

“How closely connected was this former KGB official to Vladimir Putin? Here’s one hint: He was so closely connected to Putin that he was given $100 million dollar payout by a Russian-controlled mining company as a golden parachute. And he wasn’t even the only Putin pal on Mr. Ross’ board. That’s right. Mr. Ross wanted the bank he controlled to have multiple board members from Putin’s inner circle.”

The Massachusetts Senator then reviewed how normal this has all become with Trump’s cabinet nominees.

“We’ve never seen a cabinet like this in history. Like many of President Trump’s other nominees and like President Trump himself, this nominee seems to see his time in public service as a chance to increase his own wealth. In other words, on any given deal, he might be working for the American people or he might just be working for himself. We will have no way to know.

“There is significant reason to believe that the President of the United States has substantial financial ties with Russia, but nobody actually knows any of the details because he has failed to reveal his tax returns. And now President Trump expects the Senate to rubber stamp his nomination of a top banker to Vladimir Putin’s buddies to run the Commerce Department of the United States.”

Warren saved the best for last by revealing that Ross has long been the leader of a Wall Street “Secret Society” — his official title within this little fraternity is the “Grand Swipe” — that gathers to both commiserate on their shabby public image and to poke fun at the very people they routinely victimize.

“Ross ran a secret club of top Wall Street tycoons called Kappa Beta Phi. I am not making this up. It is actually true,” said Warren. “So he runs this secret club which apparently gathers every year to get drunk and entertain themselves by putting on off-color skits that make fun of the millions of Americans they’ve swindled over the years.”

I can’t believe that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t jump up and protect his buddies after that one. But even if he had, Warren would undoubtedly have persisted. Here’s the full video of her floor speech.

Schumer on Poor Quality of Trump Cabinet Picks

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) went to the Senate floor just a few minutes ago to discuss the ongoing poor quality of Trump’s Cabinet of Deplorables and the extent to which they seem to come in loaded down with ethical and conflict of interest issues.  An excerpt:

“Just yesterday the nominee to be the Secretary of the Navy withdrew his name from consideration because he couldn’t disentangle himself from his massive personal business interests. He may have more integrity than some of the others who continued through the process with conflicts of interest hanging over their heads.

“The Navy Secretary nominee is one of 14 relatively high-level administration officials who have left, resigned or withdrawn their nomination in just the first month of this presidency. That list includes the nominee for the Secretary of Labor, Secretary of the Army, Secretary of the Navy, and principal National Security Advisor. It is clear the Trump administration did not carefully vet or select these picks.”

The Senate will vote today on Wilbur Ross to lead the Department of Commerce and Tuesday or Wednesday on Ryan Zinke for Secretary of the Interior. Confirmation votes could also happen later this week on either Ben Carson (Housing and Urban Development) or Rick Perry (Energy Department).

Cabinet of Deplorables Status: February 27, 2017

Here’s your update on Donald Trump’s Cabinet of Deplorables and where they are in the confirmation process as of Monday morning. I will update this with a new post as needed until the cabinet is filled. (Changes since last update are bolded for an easier quick-check.)

Confirmed

Elaine Chao; Department of Transportation – Confirmed by a vote of 93-6 on January 31.

Betsy DeVos; Department of Education – Confirmed by a vote of 51-50 on February 7.

Governor Nikki Haley; Ambassador to the United Nations — Confirmed by a vote of 96-4 on January 24.

Retired General John Kelly; Department of Homeland Security – Confirmed by a vote of 88-11 on January 20.

General James Mattis; Department of Defense – Confirmed by a vote of 98-1 on January 20.

Steven Mnuchin; Department of the Treasury – Confirmed by a vote of 53-47 on February 13.

Representative Mick Mulvaney; Director, Office of Management and Budget — Confirmed by a vote of 51-49 on February 16.

Mike Pompeo; Director, CIA — Confirmed by a vote of 66-32 on January 23.

Representative Tom Price; Department of Health and Human Services – Confirmed by a vote of 52-47 on February 10.

Scott Pruitt; Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency — Approved by the Environment and Public Works Committee by a vote of 11-0 on February 2. Confirmed by a vote of 52-46 on February 17.

Dr. David Shulkin; Department of Veterans Affairs — Confirmed by a vote of 100-0 on February 13.

Rex Tillerson; Department of State — Confirmed by a vote of 56-43 on February 1.

Reported Out of Committee; Floor vote to be scheduled

Dr. Ben Carson; Department of Housing and Urban Development – Approved unanimously by the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on January 24. Floor vote expected week of February 27.

Rick Perry; Department of Energy – Approved by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee January 31 by a 17-6 vote. Floor vote expected week of February 27.

Wilbur Ross; Department of Commerce – Approved on January 24 by Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Floor vote expected February 27

Representative Ryan Zinke; Department of the Interior – Approved by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a 16-6 vote on January 31. Floor vote expected February 28.

Awaiting Committee Hearing

Alexander Acosta; Department of Labor — Awaiting referral to Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee

Sonny Perdue; Department of Agriculture — Awaiting referral to Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee

Cabinet of Deplorables Status: February 21, 2017

Here’s your update on Donald Trump’s Cabinet of Deplorables and where they are in the confirmation process as of Tuesday morning. I will update this with a new post as needed until the cabinet is filled. (Changes since last update are bolded for an easier quick-check.) The Senate is in recess until February 27.

Confirmed

Elaine Chao; Department of Transportation – Confirmed by a vote of 93-6 on January 31.

Betsy DeVos; Department of Education – Confirmed by a vote of 51-50 on February 7.

Governor Nikki Haley; Ambassador to the United Nations — Confirmed by a vote of 96-4 on January 24.

Retired General John Kelly; Department of Homeland Security – Confirmed by a vote of 88-11 on January 20.

General James Mattis; Department of Defense – Confirmed by a vote of 98-1 on January 20.

Steven Mnuchin; Department of the Treasury – Confirmed by a vote of 53-47 on February 13.

Representative Mick Mulvaney; Director, Office of Management and Budget — Confirmed by a vote of 51-49 on February 16.

Mike Pompeo; Director, CIA — Confirmed by a vote of 66-32 on January 23.

Representative Tom Price; Department of Health and Human Services – Confirmed by a vote of 52-47 on February 10.

Scott Pruitt; Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency — Approved by the Environment and Public Works Committee by a vote of 11-0 on February 2. Confirmed by a vote of 52-46 on February 17.

Dr. David Shulkin; Department of Veterans Affairs — Confirmed by a vote of 100-0 on February 13.

Rex Tillerson; Department of State — Confirmed by a vote of 56-43 on February 1.

Reported Out of Committee; Floor vote to be scheduled

Dr. Ben Carson; Department of Housing and Urban Development – Approved unanimously by the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on January 24. Floor vote expected week of February 27.

Rick Perry; Department of Energy – Approved by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee January 31 by a 17-6 vote. Floor vote expected week of February 27.

Wilbur Ross; Department of Commerce – Approved on January 24 by Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Floor vote expected February 27 or 28.

Representative Ryan Zinke; Department of the Interior – Approved by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a 16-6 vote on January 31. Floor vote expected February 28.

Awaiting Committee Hearing

Alexander Acosta; Department of Labor — Awaiting referral to Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee

Sonny Perdue; Department of Agriculture — Awaiting referral to Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee

Pruitt Confirmed to Head EPA

After some of the most contentious debate in considering all of Trump’s Cabinet of Deplorables, Scott Pruitt was just confirmed to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. The vote was 52-46 with Democrats Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) voting with the Republicans and against the country.

The debate culminated with the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Environment and Public Works Committee — John Barrasso (R-WY) and Tom Carper (D-DE) — coming as close as Senators get to yelling at each other on the Senate floor. But what we end up with is another Trump nominee confirmed — in this case, a climate-change denier with a long track record of fighting the EPA and its mission, to head that very agency.

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