Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer pushed back Monday against charges Democrats are obstructing confirmation of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet, saying Republicans demanded the same thorough vetting of President Obama’s picks.
Democrats have legitimate concerns, he said, that most of Mr. Trump’s nominees have not been properly vetted by the transition team and are being rushed through the Senate confirmation process.
“We’re not doing this for sport. Democrats feel very strongly that pushing for a thorough and thoughtful vetting process is the right thing to do,” Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, said on the Senate floor.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Sunday that the delay tactics were “sour grapes” and the Democrats should “grow up.”
Mr. Schumer responded by citing a letter Mr. McConnell sent in 2009 to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, demanding thorough vetting of President Obama’s nominees. Mr. Schumer crossed out “Harry” in the salutation line and scribbled in “Mitch.”
In the letter, Mr. McConnell had listed eight standards that nominees should meet prior to confirmation, including completing a financial disclosure, FBI background check and certification by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.
The same general standards are being applied to Mr. Trump’s nominees. The ethics office, however, has notified the Senate that as of Friday it has not completed its review of some nominees with hearings scheduled.
“Our caucus was and is concerned about the timely completion of the standard paperwork and ethics clearance for nominees before proceeding full-steam ahead with confirmation hearings and votes,” Mr. Schumer said.
“Now bear in mind that President-elect Trump’s nominees pose particularly difficult ethics and conflicts of interest challenges. They come — many of them — from enormous wealth. Many have vast holdings in stocks and very few have experience in government. So they have not been appropriately vetted for something like a Cabinet post before,” he said.
Trump transition team officials have said the demand for documents was a red herring.
“Everyone who has a hearing this week has their paperwork in,” said transition team spokesman Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary.
Mr. Schumer has targeted at least eight of Mr. Trump’s nominees for delay if not defeat, including Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson, who both among nine nominees scheduled to appear at confirmation hearings this week.
Republicans have noted that seven of Mr. Obama’s Cabinet nominees were confirmed on the day of his inauguration in 2009, when Democrats were the majority party in the Senate. Five more of Mr. Obama’s nominees were confirmed by the end of his first week in office.