Udall weighs in on confirmation process

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By Arin McKenna

During a teleconference on Tuesday, Democrat Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) discussed the hearings on President Elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees, which began yesterday in the Senate.
Udall prefaced his statements by saying, “Every president, no matter who they are, should be able to choose his own team and the Senate should vote without unnecessary delay.
But Udall went on to state, “The American people also deserve transparency. They deserve to know who is running our government and whether those people have conflicts of interest.
“Many of Mr. Trump’s nominees are extremely wealthy. Many are connected to or have run major political or lobbying efforts. Several cabinet officials have not released their tax records or finished their ethics disclosure process,” Udall said.
Udall pointed out that the director of the Office of Government Ethics has expressed concerns about the fact that his office has not finished the ethics review process for Trump’s nominees and that some have not yet provided the office with the required financial disclosures. The Ethics in Government Act requires that presidential appointments confirmed by the Senate obtain OGE certification of their financial disclosures prior to any congressional hearings.
“I think we need more information before we can confirm some of these people,” Udall said.
Udall is calling on Senate Republicans to follow established procedures for cabinet confirmations.
“The important thing is to follow the regular order we have done over the years. And what that means, there are various forms of information, whether it’s an ethics check off, whether it’s tax returns, whether it’s financial information,” Udall said.
“All of that is first produced by nominees, and then the ethics agency makes a check off and says they’ve done everything they need to do to deal with conflicts of interest. And then we start the hearing process.”
Udall wanted hearing delayed until all the information was received, followed by what he called “a thorough hearing process, where you have a couple of rounds for every member of the committee to ask questions and thoroughly vet the individuals.”
Udall met one-on-one with Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, last week and asked him to release his tax returns before yesterday’s hearing. He has also written Secretary of Education Nominee Betsy DeVos twice asking her to explain why her political action committee hasn’t paid a $5 million dollar fine for election violations in the State of Ohio in 2008.
In addition to the questions Udall is asking in interviews and in the committee meetings, he and other Democrats have submitted numerous questions for the record “that we expect answers on before we have to take a vote.”
“But I will say, I’m very skeptical of some of the people he has put forward and I’m going to be asking tough questions, and at this point I’ve made no commitment to vote for any of these folks at this point.”
Udall has also joined with several other senators to introduce a bill that would require all presidential nominees and sitting presidents to release the last three years of tax returns, in an effort to force Trump to release his tax returns.
“Mr. Trump has refused to make his tax returns public, even though all presidents before him have done so for the last 40 years,” Udall said. “Our bill would put this unwritten rule into law.”