UPDATE: The hearing date of Betsy DeVos was rescheduled on Jan. 9, according to a Politico report. http://politi.co/2iX3FxO
The Senate has released a schedule of nomination hearings in Committees beginning Tuesday this week, and the schedule may make it difficult for several Democratic and Republican Senators to attend hearings in every committee they are on.
On Thursday, for example, three committees are currently scheduled meet in the morning — Armed Services; Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; and Commerce, Science, and Transportation — to hold hearings for Gen. Mattis (nominated for Secretary of Defense), Ben Carson (nominated for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development), and Wilbur Ross (nominated for Secretary of Commerce).
Seven Senators from both parties are members of more than one of these committees, meaning that they will be unable to attend both hearings. This means some Senators may have to choose which hearings to attend.
Three Republican Senators, including Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), who had called on President-elect Trump to resign from the Republican ticket before reversing her position in October, are members of the committees considering the nominations of Carson and Ross. Four Democratic Senators, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), are members of both of these committees as well.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) faces two overlapping hearings on both Tuesday and Thursday as a member of three committees — Armed Services; Judiciary; and Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
On Tuesday morning, the Armed Services Committee meets to consider civilian control of the military (possibly in relation to the nomination of Gen. Mattis, a former military officer, to the civilian role of Secretary of Defense) at the same time as the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to the position of Attorney-General, the first scheduled confirmation hearing. In addition to Sen. Blumenthal, this may cause problems for Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), members of both committees.
On Wednesday, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will be caught between the second day of nomination hearings for Sessions and the first day for Betsy DeVos, who was nominated to be Secretary of Education.
For Senators, close schedules are nothing new. Senator Claire McCaskill, for example, is a member of three committees and eight subcommittees. Even in the event that Senators are unable to attend hearings, rules of committees usually allow for proxy voting — allowing votes to be cast on nominations despite the absence. Committee quorum rules generally only require a majority — usually seven to nine members — of a committee to be present to conduct business.
However, the schedule does complicate the discussion of nominations. Senate Democrats have promised a critical review of several of President-elect Trump’s nominees, promising to ask questions about experience and potential conflicts of interest.
In a Jan. 5 letter to DeVos, for example, Sen. Whitehouse and Franken joined other minority members of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (which will consider her nomination) in asking her to disclose donor and financial relationships. However, Senate Democrats have been equally if not more critical of Session’s nomination. As Politico reported, Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee — including Sen. Franken, Blumenthal, and Whitehouse, all asked the Chairman to include witnesses on “immigration; violence against women; civil rights…;voting rights; criminal justice” and other areas, in addition to pursuing a lengthy hearing and vetting.
The overlapping schedule of committee hearings thus challenges the ability of some of these Senators to join efforts to directly question nominees.
After consideration in committee, the nominations are expected to be referred to the Senate, where senators will have further opportunities to debate the nominees before a vote is considered.