That Washington

How Our Senators Will Vote on Trump's Cabinet Nominees

“President Trump said he was going to ‘drain the swamp,’ but he seems to think the way to do that is by filling it with even bigger swamp creatures.”

By Spencer Ricks February 2, 2017

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Washington senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray are continuing to oppose the confirmations of many of President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees.

Using their “no” votes and boycott power in committees, Washington state senators are continuing to oppose the confirmations of many of president Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees.

While the Senate has already confirmed six of the cabinet nominees, senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray are already working to stop the confirmations of the rest of Trump’s picks. However, with the Republicans holding the majority in the Senate, the rest of the nominees will likely be confirmed. The only nominee whose chances of being confirmed are dicey is Betsy DeVos, who was nominated for Secretary of Education.

The Republican majority in Congress isn’t stopping Washington state’s senators from trying to stop the confirmations of many of Trump’s nominees.

Murray outlined her concerns with many of Trump’s cabinet nominees during a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

“President Trump said he was going to ‘drain the swamp,’ but he seems to think the way to do that is by filling it with even bigger swamp creatures,” Murray said in her speech. “He said he was going to stand with the working class and fight Wall Street and big business—but he’s nominated a cabinet full of Wall Street bankers, billionaires and millionaires, friends, insiders, and campaign contributors.”

Cantwell also joined other Senate Finance Committee Democrats to boycott the committee votes of Steven Mnuchin and Tom Price, who were nominated by Trump to be Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of Health and Human Resources respectively.

“These two nominees will have a tremendous responsibility for our economic and financial security and the health and safety of hundreds of millions of Americans,” Cantwell said. “Our committee has critically important questions that remain outstanding and they must be addressed. With so much at stake, the American people deserve answers.”

With most Senate committee hearings being wrapped up by this week, Murray and Cantwell have already indicated their positions on many of Trump’s cabinet picks and how they will vote.

Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State

Tillerson was nominated as the nation’s 69th Secretary of State on Wednesday after a 56-to-43 vote.

How Cantwell voted: “No”

How Murray voted: “No”

“One clear example of President Trump’s broken promise to ‘drain the swamp’ is the nomination of Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon-Mobil, for Secretary of State,” Murray said in her Tuesday speech. “This is a nominee who is not only a known friend and business partner to Russia, but someone who publicly spoke against sanctions on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine and Crimea. People in my home state of Washington have significant concerns about who he plans to work for. And so do I—concerns that Mr. Tillerson failed to adequately address in his hearing.”

Steven Mnuchin for Secretary of the Treasury

Despite Democrats on the Finance Committee boycotting his committee vote, Mnuchin’s nomination was sent to the floor on Wednesday for the confirmation vote. Republicans in the Finance Committee under senator Orrin Hatch of Utah had to change the rules to get Mnuchin through the committee without Democrats present at the vote.

How Cantwell will vote: “No”

How Murray will vote: Likely “No”

“I am disappointed Finance Committee Republicans broke committee rules to force through [Mnuchin], who has not yet answered important questions about recently revealed ethics problems,” Cantwell said in a statement.

The “recently revealed ethics problems” Cantwell referred to came to light during his Senate confirmation hearing last week, when Mnuchin provided false testimony about OneWest Bank, where he served as chairman and CEO.

Jeff Sessions for Attorney General

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination of Sessions as attorney general on Wednesday, moving him on to voting on the floor.

How Cantwell will vote: “No”

How Murray will vote: “No”

Cantwell cited Sessions’ record on voting rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ issues, immigration, marijuana regulation, and Roe v. Wade as her reasons for not voting in favor of his confirmation.

“Given his record, I am concerned that if Senator Sessions is confirmed to be U.S. attorney general, he and the Trump administration may not uphold current protections for all Americans,” Cantwell said.

Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services

Price was also approved by the Finance Committee to move onto the floor for voting on Wednesday despite Cantwell and other Democrats boycotting his committee vote.

How Cantwell will vote: “No”

How Murray will vote: Undecided. Has “serious concerns,” said Murray’s press secretary Kerry Arndt.

Cantwell and Murray said Democrats weren’t given enough time to ask Price questions in his hearing about his policies.

“I can understand why Republicans wouldn’t want congressman Tom Price to defend his policies, which would take health care coverage away from families, voucherize Medicare, and undermine women’s access to reproductive health services,” Murray said.

James Mattis for Secretary of Defense

Mattis was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in as Secretary of Defense on January 20, the same day as his boss’s inauguration. 

How Cantwell voted: “Yes”

How Murray voted: “Yes”

John Kelly for Secretary of Homeland Security

Kelly was also confirmed and sworn in as Secretary of Homeland Security on January 20 after 88 votes in favor of his confirmation and only 11 votes against.

How Cantwell voted: “Yes”

How Murray voted: “Yes” 

Ben Carson for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Despite not having any experience in government, Carson passed his committee hearing and is waiting for the floor vote.

How Cantwell will vote: Cantwell has not yet indicated how she will vote for Carson.

How Murray will vote: Likely “No”

Rick Perry for Secretary of Energy

Perry is also awaiting the floor vote after passing the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.

How Cantwell will vote: “No”

How Murray will vote: Likely “No”

Cantwell said she didn’t want Perry to be confirmed because of his views toward climate change and renewable energy.

“We have made too much progress, and even more progress needs to continue to be made, to reverse course now,” Cantwell said. “That is what I fear could happen at the Department of Energy when there is not strong advocacy of these key programs.”

Murray said she is concerned about Perry’s views on nuclear power and his ties to Big Oil.

“Washington state is home to one of the largest nuclear cleanup efforts in the world, so I cannot stress enough how critical it is to have strong, able leadership at the U.S. Department of Energy to guide the cleanup at Hanford,” Murray said.

Andrew Puzder for Secretary of Labor

Best known as the CEO for the parent company for Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., Puzder doesn’t carry any government experience with him. Puzder is still awaiting his Senate committee hearing before his confirmation can be proposed to the entire Senate on the floor.

How Cantwell will vote: Likely “No”

How Murray will vote: Undecided. Has “serious concerns,” Arndt said.

Murray also mentioned her concerns with Puzder in her speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, where she said he “represents yet another broken promise to put workers first.”

“Puzder has made clear he will do what’s best for big businesses like his own at the expense of workers and their families,” Murray said. “He’s spoken out against a strong increase in the minimum wage. He’s been one of the most vocal opponents of our efforts to update the rules so that millions more workers can earn overtime pay.”

Elaine Chao for Secretary of Transportation

Chao was confirmed as the next Secretary of Transportation on Tuesday after receiving 93 out of 100 votes in favor of her confirmation.

How Cantwell voted: “Yes”

How  Murray voted: “Yes”

Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education

Despite Democratic efforts to halt her confirmation process, DeVos was approved by the Senate committee vote on Tuesday to move on to voting on the floor. DeVos faces the most opposition in the Senate and her confirmation is not guaranteed, especially after two Republican Senators, Susan Collins (R-Maine) and senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala), announced on Wednesday they wouldn’t be voting in favor of DeVos’s confirmation.

How Cantwell will be voting: “No”

How Murray will be voting: “No”

As the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Murray is leading the charge against DeVos’s confirmation. Murray has been pushing for a second hearing for DeVos after she said Democrats weren’t allowed to ask her enough questions.

“DeVos is a billionaire with extraordinarily complicated and opaque finances—both in her own holdings as well as those of her immediate family,” Murray said. “She has refused to answer basic questions about her finances that would allow us to make sure that she won’t continue to have serious conflicts of interest were she to be confirmed.”

Cantwell also said she was worried about DeVos’s ability to help students at public schools.

“DeVos misses the importance of public schools to working families,” Cantwell said. “When it came to protecting students with disabilities, Mrs. DeVos showed a lack of understanding for federal disability laws in education that ensure every child receives a high-quality education.”

Ryan Zinke for Secretary of the Interior

Zinke was approved for voting on the floor after his hearing by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources wrapped up on Tuesday.

How Cantwell will vote: “No”

How Murray will vote: “No”

Cantwell said she was especially concerned about Zinke’s push for increased coal mining and drilling in sensitive areas.

“I am concerned that the Trump administration has made it clear that it wants to pursue an aggressive energy development agenda by undoing reasonable protections on environmentally sensitive lands and waters,” Cantwell said. “And they want to renew efforts at reversing protections both onshore and offshore. I hope that this conversation about how we provide good stewardship will continue.”


Despite Murray and Cantwell’s “no” votes against Mike Pompeo for CIA director, Pompeo was confirmed by the Senate on January 23. Cantwell and Murray both voted in favor of confirming Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on January 24.

Murray and Cantwell have not yet indicated how they will vote for Wilbur Ross for Secretary of Commerce, Sonny Perdue for Secretary of Agriculture, or David Shulkin for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, though Arndt said Murray has concerns about Perdue and Shulkin.

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