A Senate panel on Tuesday approved President Trump’s nominees to lead the Energy and Interior departments, even as senators clashed elsewhere on Capitol Hill over the nomination of Jeff Sessions for attorney general.
In early-morning action, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced the nominations of Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke for Interior secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry for Energy secretary.
The votes come on a very busy day for Senate lawmakers as they vote on a half-dozen Trump’s picks in committee.
But the biggest showdown is occurring before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is expected to vote, eventually, on the nomination of Sen. Sessions to become the next United States attorney general.
Sessions, a conservative senator from Alabama, was an early backer of Trump. During his confirmation hearings he has been dogged by allegations of racism – something he strongly denies.
But his nomination was further complicated by the fallout from Trump’s controversial executive order suspending the U.S. refugee program and restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
On Monday night, Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, a holdover from former President Barack Obama’s administration, when she defiantly refused to defend Trump’s controversial immigration order.
Trump said Yates had betrayed the administration by not carrying out the order and replaced her with Dana Boente, a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Boente announced he would rescind Yates’ policy – effective immediately.
Monday’s firing and escalating tension over Trump’s executive order made Tuesday’s vote on Sessions particularly contentious.
The Senate Finance Committee also will decide whether the nomination of Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., for Health and Human Services secretary will move forward. They’ll also decide on the nomination of Steve Mnuchin to lead the Treasury Department and Betsy DeVos to head up Education.
All the candidates had strong Republican support going into the committee votes.