A reminder for progressives: Wednesday is when the GOP will begin to try to push Trump’s disastrous cabinet picks through congress. While they cannot be confirmed until after he is inaugurated, they can be approved by the various committees charged with oversight for the agencies they will head up. To say that many of these cabinet candidates are controversial is the understatement to end all understatements. Consequently, they need to receive a thorough and careful vetting. Even if they are confirmed by a rapacious GOP majority in congress, we deserve to have their shortcomings carefully delineated and laid out for all to see.
In respect to the cabinet confirmation process, I have noted that Missouri’s Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is in a hard place. A majority of the folks who vote in Missouri (which is not the majority of Missourians, incidentally*) voted for Donald Trump and a host of fringe right GOP aparatchiks. McCaskill has actually been identified as the target of a far-right group seeking to pressure red-state Democrats to roll over for Trump. But there are serious reasons to fight against passing poorly digested cabinet nominees out of committee prematurely, reasons that are more compelling even than their arguable unsuitability for the jobs they will be tasked to perform.
We have an ethically challenged, conflict-of-interest-ridden President-elect who has nominated a cabinet that has stone-walled the process of ethical vetting. One red-flag after another, yeah? The former White House ethics counsels for Presidents Bush and Obama argued persuasively in the U.S. edition of the Guardian that the hearings must be delayed:
At this point in 2009, the Obama administration had ensured that its cabinet nominees completed their nomination paperwork, including an OGE [Office of Government Ethics]-certified 278 and a signed ethics agreement, at least three days in advance of confirmation hearings (and for many over a week in advance). This is the standard to which each new administration should be held if they want to give credibility to the Senate advice and consent process.
So far, most of Trump’s nominees fail this test. To his credit, Rex Tillerson, the president-elect’s nominee for secretary of state, who has an extensive and complicated financial portfolio, completed his paperwork on 3 January in anticipation of a confirmation hearing date of 11 January. If he can do it, the others, including DeVos and other cabinet nominees, can as well.
Don’t blame the delay on OGE. As noted in reporting by Politico and MSNBC, the Trump transition team failed to engage with OGE in a timely fashion notwithstanding extensive efforts on the part of OGE to reach out to the transition team. We appreciate President-elect Trump’s desire to get his leadership team in place as quickly as possible, but it is imperative that OGE be part of that process.
The tone of ethical leadership and conduct is set at the top. The failure of Trump as president-elect to address the conflicts of interest and constitutional problems deriving from his own business interests is a serious problem.
I would suggest that you read the whole article if you need more convincing. To allow the GOP to steam-roll these nominees through congress would be the first step toward supinely accepting four years of ongoing corruption. We’ll probably see lots of that corruption no matter what we and our more ethical legislators do, but none of us should make it easy for Trump and the bought-and-paid-for members of the GOP.
Now is the time that Senator McCaskill needs to hear from us. We need her to speak out against any further congressional action on cabinet nominees until they can demonstrate that they have no conflicts of interest that would affect their performance.
But McCaskill doesn’t have to go it alone. Call her and let her know that if she stands up for high standards of governmental integrity, we’ll stand by her. Here’s how to reach her (I always call both the local and the Washington D.C. office):
- Cape Girardeau office: Phone: (573) 651-0964
- Columbia office: Phone: (573) 442-7130
- Kansas City office: Phone: (816) 421-1639
- Springfield office: Phone: (417) 868-8745
- St. Louis office: Phone: (314) 367-1364
- Washington D.C. office: Phone: (202) 224-6154
*Missouri’s had 4,109,936 registered voters as of 2012; only 2,808,605 Missourians voted in 2016 – and of those, only 1,594,511 voted for Trump – 39% of the eligible voters in Missouri delivered the state to Trump.