- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on Congress (all times EST):

3:20 p.m.

The chief of staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Robert Snyder, will become the agency’s interim leader after Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday.

Lawmaker wants Adam Schiff's phone records to probe whistleblower scheme
Another Kavanaugh accuser admits to fabricating rape story
Joe Biden calls man a 'damn liar' at campaign event after he brings up son Hunter

Trump has picked VA undersecretary David Shulkin to head the agency, replacing Bob McDonald. But Shulkin still needs to be confirmed by the Senate and hasn’t had a hearing yet.

There was some expectation that Shulkin would serve as acting secretary until his confirmation. But a 1998 law prohibits nominees from serving as interim leaders.

Shulkin, the only Obama administration official named to Trump’s Cabinet, is expected to win confirmation. He’ll serve in his current role as undersecretary of health until then.


2 p.m.

The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is asking the GOP chairman to include more lawmakers at a private meeting on Monday with the director of the Office of Government Ethics.

That request comes from Elijah Cummings, a Maryland congressman. He wants Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah to invite all committee members to the session with Walter Shaub Jr.

Right now, the meeting isn’t open to the public - and those two lawmakers are the only ones scheduled to attend.

Chaffetz has summoned Shaub after the ethics official challenged some of President-elect Donald Trump’s business arrangements. Last week, Shaub issued a scathing review of Trump’s plan to turn over control of his business to his sons.

Chaffetz vigorously pursued Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server, and now he’s targeting the ethics director.


1:05 p.m.

Donald Trump’s choice to run the Treasury Department is promising that the United States won’t default on its debt, and he wants to raise the country’s borrowing limit “sooner rather than later.”

A reset is due later this year.

Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-chin) tells the Senate Finance Committee during a sometimes contentious confirmation hearing that he and Trump believe that “honoring the U.S. debt is the most important thing.”

Raising the borrowing limit is necessary to avoid a first-ever default on U.S. obligations, but Trump has raised eyebrows by suggesting he might renegotiate the government’s obligations to save money.

Mnuchin tried to dispel any doubts. In his words: “The U.S. has the obligation to honor its debt” - and “we don’t want to risk defaulting.”


12 p.m.

Rick Perry is engaging in a bit of self-deprecation to make the point that he doesn’t agree with cuts being discussed for Energy Department research programs.

Perry is remembered for being unable to recall during his first presidential campaign that the department was one of the agencies he would eliminate. Now he’s Donald Trump’s pick to lead it.

The former Texas governor is recalling that embarrassing moment during his confirmation hearing. Senate Democrats are questioning him about reports that the Trump transition team is considering eliminating offices that deal with research on renewable energy, modernizing the electric grid and others.

Perry was asked whether he supports such cuts. His response: “Maybe they’ll have the same experience I had and forget that they said that.”

The audience in the hearing room erupted in laughter.


11:40 a.m.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says the Senate will vote on two of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees on Friday and begin debate on a third.

The Senate will vote on retired Gen. James Mattis to be defense secretary and retired Gen. John Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Both are expected to be easily confirmed.

And debate is expected to begin on the nomination of Mike Pompeo - a Republican congressman from Kansas - to head the CIA.

When President Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009 the Senate confirmed seven Cabinet nominees that same day. But Democrats - led by Schumer - complain that Trump’s nominees haven’t submitted required paperwork in all cases, and there’s not been enough time to question the nominees.


11:35 a.m.

It’s getting pretty snippy at the Senate confirmation hearing for Donald Trump’s pick for treasury secretary.

It started when Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden - the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, opened with a tough statement about financier Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-chin).

That led a Republican senator, Pat Roberts of Kansas, to suggest that Wyden might want to take the sedative Valium. Roberts also said Wyden had suggested the former banker Mnuchin was “in charge of the Great Recession.”

After Roberts’ attempt at humor, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio jumped into the fray and said Roberts’ Valium comment was “just outrageous.”


11:15 a.m.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (KAY’-sihk) is among the Republican governors asking the GOP majority on Congress to enact an alternative to the federal health law at the same time as the law is repealed.

He’s written the Senate Finance Committee - and says people could lose their insurance if Congress refuses to finance the law without a replacement in place.

Kasich and some other Republican governors had agreed to expand Medicaid - the state-federal health insurance for low-income people - in return for an increase in federal financial support as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Other GOP governors refused to expand Medicaid - and get the billions in federal subsidies that came with that expansion. Now they’re seeking less-restricted, lump sum federal dollars to pay for state-funded health insurance programs.


11 a.m.

Energy Secretary-designate Rick Perry is criticizing a Trump transition team questionnaire seeking the names of those who worked on Obama administration climate policy efforts.

The issue came up during questioning at Perry’s Senate confirmation hearing Thursday.

Perry says the questionnaire went out before he was picked by Trump to oversee the department.

Here’s what Perry says: “I didn’t approve it. I don’t approve of it. I don’t need that information. I don’t want that information.”

Some Energy Department officials viewed the questionnaire as an attempt to go after top scientist at the agency. Democratic lawmakers called it a political witch hunt that could have a chilling impact on federal workers.


10:35 a.m.

Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Treasury Department is defending his handling of thousands of foreclosures during the height of the financial crisis.

Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-chin) says he worked hard to assist homeowners to refinance so they could keep their homes.

Mnuchin says in his prepared testimony to the Senate Finance Committee that he’s “been maligned as taking advantage of others’ hardships in order to earn a buck” and that nothing could be further from the truth.

The committee’s top Democrat, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden - is scolding Mnunchin for running a bank that “put more vulnerable people on the street faster than just about anybody else” as it foreclosed on borrowers’ homes.

Critics have cited the bank’s foreclosure policies under Mnuchin as a prime example of the kind of Wall Street greed that Trump campaigned against.


10:30 a.m.

A Democratic lawmaker is introducing former Texas Gov. Rick Perry at his confirmation hearing - and that’s a rarity for one of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia says Perry - in line to be energy secretary - was a successful executive in a state with a diverse energy portfolio.

Manchin is noting how governors learn to form bonds that cross party lines.

Manchin says that was particularly the case after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. He says West Virginia sent airplanes and soldiers to help Texas at Perry’s request. He calls the response in Texas a collaboration of how government officials should work together.


10:20 a.m.

The Senate’s top Democrat says Donald Trump’s pick to run the Treasury Department has failed to reveal all his financial holdings in initial disclosures to lawmakers.

And Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York says that “reeks of the swamp” that the president-elect has promised to drain.

Schumer calls the Treasury pick - Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-chin) - the latest ethically challenged Trump nominee to be rushed through the Senate. Schumer says the “American people and Senate Democrats are not going to stand for it.”

Democrats say Mnunchin amended his initial disclosures to report about $100 million in additional assets and roles in several investment funds, including incorporated in the Cayman Islands.


10:05 a.m.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry says he now regrets recommending the elimination of the Department of Energy when he ran for president in 2011.

Perry is appearing a Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday. It was during a GOP-candidate debate when Perry couldn’t recall the department as one of the agencies he’d eliminate.

Democrats aren’t letting him forget it.

Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state says she suspects that after Perry has had a chance to learn about the department, he now has a very different opinion.

Perry says that after being briefed on “so many of the vital functions” of the department, he regrets his earlier recommendation.


9:25 a.m.

Rick Perry says he believes the climate is changing - and that some change is naturally occurring, and some is man-made.

The former Texas governor is Donald Trump’s pick to head the Energy Department, and he’s facing a Senate hearing Thursday.

Perry says in prepared testimony to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that the question is how to address climate change in a way that doesn’t compromise economic growth.

He’s calling for an “all of the above strategy” that continues drilling for fossil fuels as well as developing renewable sources of energy. Perry says Texas took the lead in wind energy development during his 14 years in office.

As a presidential candidate, Perry once forgot that the Energy Department was an agency he had pledged to eliminate.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide