Senate Democrats boycott, delay committee vote on Mnuchin, Price

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By Susan Cornwell and David Lawder

<span class="articleLocation”>U.S. Senate Democrats on Tuesday boycotted a
planned committee vote on two of President Donald Trump’s
Cabinet nominees, Steve Mnuchin to be Treasury secretary and Tom
Price to head the Health and Human Services department,
postponing the vote.

At least one Democrat must be present for the committee
votes to take place. Democrats said they were delaying because
they wanted more information on Price’s stock trades in an
Australian medical company and reports that Mnuchin’s former
bank, OneWest, used automated “robo-signings” of foreclosure
documents, which apparently contradicted statements the nominees
had made to senators.

Republican Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance
Committee, called the Democratic boycott “shocking” and “offensive.”

“They’re going to vote no. They’ve made that very clear,” he
said to other Republicans on the committee. “I think they ought
to stop posturing and acting like idiots. What’s the matter with
the other party? Are they that bitter about Donald Trump?”

Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the committee, told
reporters Democrats were not ready to consider either nominee.

“We’ve made clear that we need additional information to
make these judgments,” he said.

It was unclear when the committee votes could be held. But a
spokesman for Wyden, Taylor Harvey, indicated it was not the
Democrats’ intention to leave the two nominees in limbo
indefinitely. “Our hope is we can resolve these issues and
continue the markup (voting) soon,” he said.

The Democrats said they wanted more information about Price
and Mnuchin after media reports appeared to contradict
statements that they had made in confirmation hearings and
subsequent written statements.

In Mnuchin’s case, the Columbus Dispatch newspaper cited
documents showing that OneWest used automated “robo-signings” –
a method for approving mortgage documents that was criticized
for not fully considering them – after the former Goldman Sachs
executive and OneWest chairman flatly denied those practices to

Wyden said Democrats also wanted more information about a
Wall Street Journal article that said Price received a
privileged offer to buy a biomedical stock at a discount,
contrary to his congressional testimony this month.

Price had testified the discounted shares he bought in Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd were available to all other
investors at the time but the Journal said that in fact he was
one of fewer than 20 U.S. investors who were invited last year
to buy the discounted shares.

“The company is directly contradicting Congressman Price,
indicating he didn’t tell the truth. And he misled the Congress
and he misled the American people,” Wyden said.

Barney Keller, a spokesman for Mnuchin’s transition,
dismissed the Ohio newspaper’s report as “bogus,” saying courts
had already rejected allegations that a OneWest official’s
signings of documents cited in the report were “robo-signings.”

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