Sohn: McConnell, GOP should beware of lightning

Sohn: McConnell, GOP should beware of lightning

January 11th, 2017 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) questions Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), President-elect Donald Trump's pick for attorney general, during Sessions' confirmation hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Jan. 10, 2017. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

Photo by STEPHEN CROWLEY

FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2016, file photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The government's ethics office says several of President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet choices have not completed a review to avoid conflicts of interest even as Senate Republicans move rapidly to hold at least nine confirmation hearings next week. In a letter to Senate leaders, Walter Shaub, the director of the Office of Government Ethics, described the current status of several nominees, many of whom are billionaires and millionaires, in the ethics process and expressed concern about the lack of ethics reviews just days from committee hearings. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2016, file...

Photo by Susan Walsh

Republican politicians are simply shameless.

One need look no further than the Senate confirmation hearings for presidential appointees. And look, especially, at Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Sen. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who once said his party's most important task was to deny President Barack Obama a second term, in February 2009 wrote a letter to then-Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying there could be no action on Obama's nominees pending a long list of demands — including completion of reviews by the Office of Government Ethics.

Last year, he escalated that language of "no" by refusing even to consider any Supreme Court nomination. And he made good on the refusal. Obama's moderate nominee, Merrick Garland, has waited 11 months without a hearing. McConnell and the Republicans in control of the Senate since 2014 for all practical purposes stole that Supreme Court nomination.

When Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, after the election, suggested that Democrats would try to fight fire with fire for any Donald Trump high court nominees, McConnell made this stunning pronouncement: "The American people simply will not tolerate" a Democratic block to a Trump Supreme Court nominee.

McConnell should never stand outside or even in a room with a window during a thunderstorm. Surely, lightning would strike him.

What's more, President-elect Trump's cabinet nominees are rocketing through their senate hearings — and about half of them haven't even completed their required ethics paperwork.

In a Saturday letter of alarm to McConnell and Schumer, Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, states: "In fact, OGE has not received even initial draft financial disclosure reports for some of the nominees scheduled for hearings."

Shaub wrote there is "cause for alarm" if the Senate proceeds with confirmation hearings for some of Trump's cabinet nominees whose financial and other paperwork have not been certified by the agency.

"I am not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the Senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominee had completed the ethics review process," Shaub said.

This is not just a practice. It's a law. Nominees for presidential cabinet appointments requiring Senate confirmation must get ethics office certification of financial disclosure reports and ethics agreements, according to the Ethics in Government Act passed in 1978 after the Watergate scandal.

Schumer on Saturday asked McConnell to delay hearings for those without completed ethics paperwork.

What was McConnell's response on Sunday?

"... [A]ll of these little procedural complaints are related to [Democrats] frustrations [that they lost]. We need to sort of grow up here and get past that."

Then McConnell — whose wife Elaine Chao is one of the nominees — pushed ahead in a bid to confirm as many as possible after Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20. So far, there are at least eight Cabinet confirmation hearings scheduled in the Senate this week, with as many as four today — the same day Trump has said he will hold his first news conference in months, and the same day senators will participate in a budget "vote-a-rama" expected to go late into the night.

When Obama is in office, hearings are stuck on wait — or simply never happen.

When Trump stands in the wings — complete with his own endless set of conflicts, along with those of his children and son-in-law — the Republican-controlled Senate throws open the door in preparation to rubber-stamp White House passes.

Clearly for modern-day Republican leaders holding control in the House, Senate and Oval Office, law, tradition and principle are just three more words we can't believe.

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