WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans on Sunday defended their party against Democratic complaints that Congress is being forced to consider nominees for Donald Trump's administration without completed ethics reviews.
"All of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration in having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"I understand that," he added, "but we need to sort of grow up here and get past that."
At issue is whether people picked by the president elect — in some cases millionaires and billionaires with complex personal finances — would face conflicts of interest when it comes to overseeing taxpayer spending. The Office of Government Ethics says in some cases the office hasn't received even draft financial disclosure reports for nominees appearing before Congress this week, when the Senate plans to hold at least nine confirmation hearings, beginning Tuesday.
McConnell suggested the complaints amounted to sour grapes from a party that did poorly in the 2016 congressional and presidential elections. The Kentucky Republican noted that Republicans were in the same boat eight years ago when they had to swiftly confirm multiple nominees who he described as "wildly liberal."
But the director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, said the Republican management of the confirmation hearings is unusual considering that that in some cases, the office had not received even initial draft financial disclosure reports from Trump nominees.
"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," wrote Shaub.
Senate committee aides said hearings were held for former Education Secretary Roderick Paige and former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao before they received the same forms in 2001, and that they received the documents days after each of those hearings. Both were confirmed to serve in President George W. Bush's Cabinet.
Reince Priebus, Trump's incoming chief of staff, rejected any suggestion that Republicans should slow down. In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Priebus said Democrats "have all the information" they need and should move fast because voters mandated it.
"Change was voted for and change we will get," he said.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the ethics review is aimed at ensuring wealthy Cabinet members work for the American people instead of "their own bottom line, and that they plan to fully comply with the law."
This story has been corrected to reflect that the Senate plans at least nine confirmation hearings this week, not just on Wednesday.