White House

If Democrats delay, can Trump’s Cabinet still get to work?

Trump's White House

President-elect Donald Trump is shaping his White House staff. Here's a look at the individuals he's offered positions to.
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President-elect Donald Trump is shaping his White House staff. Here's a look at the individuals he's offered positions to.

If Democrats succeed in delaying the confirmation of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees, can they still go to work?

Sort of.

They can be briefed and work on lower-level appointments but they can’t take action until they are confirmed by the Senate.

“They can be at their desks, but any official acts before confirmation would be open to legal challenge,” said Ross Baker, a politics professor at Rutgers University who served as an adviser to senators of both parties. “They would be on shakier ground than someone with a recess appointment.”

Confirmation hearings for Trump’s Cabinet nominees will begin next week, with some nominees likely ready for a vote on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. But Democrats aim to slow that down.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee next Tuesday and Wednesday. Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Trump’s nominee for CIA director, will appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

James Mattis, nominee for defense secretary, and Rex Tillerson, nominee for secretary of state, also are expected to have their hearings as early as next week.

Already, more than a dozen appointees are meeting with senators prior to the hearings. Democrats plan to target several of them, though it’s unlikely they will be successful, with Republican majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“We’re going after their nominees,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show.” You know, (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell wanted to elect all of them, just get through in these quick little two-hour hearings, get all of them done in two weeks. We’re saying no way. We can be very strong and unflinching and hold his feet to the fire.”

The top targets include: Tillerson, Sessions, Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary nominee, and Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Others possibilities are: Mick Mulvaney, nominee for director of Office of Management and Budget, Betsy DeVos, education secretary nominee, Tom Price, nominee for health and human services secretary, and Andrew Puzder, labor secretary nominee.

Trump has yet to nominate anyone for secretary of agriculture, secretary of veterans affairs and director of national intelligence, which is also a Cabinet-level position.