Byron York: On Capitol Hill, Trump Wins Week One
By Byron York
January 13, 2017
Click Here To Read
This was supposed to be the week Donald Trump's nominees endured tough grilling and determined opposition in Senate confirmation hearings. "Trump Cabinet picks face extreme vetting ahead of confirmation," USA Today reported last month, predicting that several Trump picks could face a very difficult time on Capitol Hill.
Now Week One is ending, and the tough grilling mostly didn't materialize. And all of Trump's first week of nominees seem headed toward confirmation.
Seven Trump picks — Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary-designate John Kelly, Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson, Transportation Secretary-designate Elaine Chao, Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis, Housing and Urban Development Secretary-designate Ben Carson, and CIA Director-designate Mike Pompeo — faced Senate committees this week. The number included three of the so-called Big Four cabinet positions — Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense. (A hearing for the fourth of the Big Four, Treasury Secretary-designate Stephen Mnuchin, has not yet been scheduled.)
Some of the hearings went so well that press accounts declared them a "lovefest." Chao's hearing certainly qualified, as did Kelly's. Others, like Mattis's, were smooth and businesslike. Still others, like Sessions', ended up being far less adversarial than expected, either because Democratic attacks lacked energy and focus, or the nominee was able to deftly handle the situation, or both.
Chao's hearing consisted largely of the nominee and Republican and Democratic senators all expressing high regard for each other.
Mattis's hearing included much praise of his competence and qualifications, followed by a broadly bipartisan 24-3 committee vote approving a measure to give Mattis a waiver for a law that would have barred him, as a retired general, from serving now as Defense Secretary. The full Senate went on to approve the waiver 81 to 17.
And in its first week of tests on Capitol Hill, the new administration came out the winner.