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Senate Democrats Aim to Block Trump Appointees Until Conditions Are Met

The ranking Democrat members of 16 Senate committees signed a joint statement of principles about how they intend to vet President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees.

They’re pledging to prevent the nominees from having committee votes until the FBI finished its investigations and the nominees have completed full financial disclosures.

“The United States Senate has a rich, bipartisan tradition of vetting nominees to the president’s cabinet,” the statement says:

We hope to continue that tradition with our colleagues in the Republican majority because the American people are entitled to a fair and open consideration process for all executive nominations. Therefore, a cabinet nomination should only proceed to a mark-up in Committee if: the nominee has cleared an FBI background check, the nominee provides a completed financial disclosure statement and ethics agreement signed by the Office of Government Ethics and the nominee has satisfied reasonable requests for additional information and Members have time to review that material.

The Democratic Policy and Communications Center said it released the statement in reaction to media reports that Trump appointees were lagging in their disclosures. The DPCC is controlled by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D.-N.Y.), who takes over in January as the Minority Leader, and the statement is another signal that the New York Democrat intends to confront the Republican majority at every turn.

Republicans hold 52 seats in the upper chamber, with the Democrats holding 46 seats, plus two Independents who function as Democrats. As a practical matter, assuming incoming vice-president Mike Pence is available to break a 50-to-50 tie, Schumer only needs three Republicans to defeat confirmations, legislation, and other resolutions.

Ranking members are the senior members of the minority party on a committee. They have larger staffs and — because of the natural order of doing business in the Senate — they often hold sway close to that of a committee chairman.

The senators signing the statement are: Sen. Sherrod Brown, Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Sen. Maria Cantwell, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; Sen. Ben Cardin, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations; Sen. Tom Carper, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works; Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Senate Committee on the Judiciary; Sen. Claire McCaskill, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; Sen. Patty Murray, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions; Sen. Bill Nelson, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation; Sen. Jack Reed, Senate Committee on Armed Services; Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship; Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Sen. Jon Tester, Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs; Sen. Tom Udall, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; Sen. Mark Warner, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; and Sen. Ron Wyden, Senate Committee on Finance.

The Democrats were joined by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Senate Committee on the Budget, who is officially an Independent, but who caucuses with the Democrats.

The inclusion of the Office of Government Ethics is troubling given the way it has inserted itself in the the public debate over the president-elect and his incoming administration.

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