Over the past two weeks, almost all of the soon-to-be president Trump’s nominees for cabinet positions had confirmation hearings in senate committees. Most, if not all of the nominees are expected to be confirmed to their positions however some have been very controversial. Below is a list of the most controversial nominees and any information on their controversies and highlights from their hearings.
Attorney General: Jeff Sessions
Senator Sessions was accused of racism and was denied a federal judgeship in 1986. In his hearing, he faced questions about his positions on voting rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights, immigration and criminal justice. Sessions touted his defense of civil rights laws and voting rights while district attorney for the state of Alabama and his senate vote to extend the voting rights act. Sessions was adamant that he would enforce all laws equally including those that he did not agree with. Senator Jeff Sessions is expected to be confirmed.
Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson
Tillerson is the former CEO of the oil company, Exxon Mobil. He was accused of holding close ties with the Russian government and faced tough questioning from both Democrats and Republicans. Tillerson said that standing up to Russian aggression was necessary but also argued that engagement with Russia was necessary. Tillerson was also asked about human rights in several countries. He stated that he did not have enough information to determine whether or not the Phillippine president Duterte’s war on drugs was a human rights violation but did state that if some of the allegations against Duterte are proven to be true, Tillerson would consider them a violation of human rights. Tillerson also stated that he would continue to encourage Saudi Arabia to move towards improving human rights but refused to label the country as a blatant violator of human rights fearing that that would garner unintended repercussions. Tillerson will likely be confirmed, however, his chances are lower than other nominees because he is opposed by some republican senators, namely Marco Rubio.
Environmental Protection Agency: Scott Pruitt
When Scott Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma was appointed to lead the EPA, many progressives were concerned about his ties to the fossil fuel industry, his denial of climate change, and his lawsuits against the EPA over regulations concerning air and water pollution. During his hearing, Pruitt faced tough questioning on all of these issues and pledged to follow recommendations from scientists and protect air and water quality. He will likely be confirmed.
Education Secretary: Betsy DeVos
A prominent Michigan republican, DeVos is an ardent supporter of school vouchers which siphon government funding away from public schools and into charter schools and private schools. She also supports teaching Christian religious beliefs in schools. DeVos faced questions on all of these issues but was unable to give definite answers. She also refused to condemn guns in all schools stating that rural schools have different needs than urban ones, citing a school in Wyoming which has a fence to protect it from bears. Although Betsy DeVos is extremely controversial, Democrats will have to fight very hard to block her confirmation.
CIA Director: Mike Pompeo
Kansas congressman, Mike Pompeo was questioned about his hardline positions on interrogation techniques and surveillance. Although Pompeo previously has supported torture techniques being used to interrogate detainees, he stated that he will not support them as CIA director due to laws passed prohibiting torture of people in US custody. On surveillance, Pompeo stated that he would follow the USA Freedom Act which prohibits some bulk collection of phone and internet data. Mike Pompeo is expected to be confirmed.
Treasury Secretary: Steven Mnuchin
Mnuchin bought the bank, IndyMac during the 2008 financial crisis and renamed it One West Bank. One West foreclosed on thousands of homeowners during the housing crisis. Mnuchin was also accused of investing his money overseas to avoid taxes. At his hearing, Mnuchin stated that OneWest’s foreclosing on so many homes was a mistake but denied the allegations that he avoided taxes. Mnuchin will face harsh opposition from Democrats but will likely be confirmed.
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Tom Price
Congressman Price’s main agenda for the past 6 years has been to try to repeal the affordable care act. Price also supports cutting Medicare and Medicaid. Price is also accused of failing to pay taxes several times. Democrats questioned him harshly on these issues. Price denied the allegations of tax avoidance and dodged questions about his positions on Medicaid and Medicare instead, stating that soon to be president, Trump will not go back on his previous commitments to preserve these programs. Price will face intense opposition from democrats but likely will get confirmed.
These are the most controversial of Trump’s appointments to have gone through hearings. Other nominees will almost certainly be confirmed by the senate and are perceived to be quite moderate.
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