Jan 9, 2017 5:57 PM
NH1 News Political Director
EXETER – On the eve of a confirmation hearing frenzy in the nation’s capital, New Hampshire’s senior U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen warned that “the Republican leadership is talking about asking us to act on nominees who have not been through the vetting process.”
And in a joint-interview with NH1 News, the Granite State’s newest senator and fellow Democrat Maggie Hassan said that “we don’t have basic information” on President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees, adding that it “is absolutely essential that we have time to thoroughly vet these nominees.”
Shaheen and Hassan spoke with NH1 News on Monday following a visit to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Exeter. The interview came one day before the kickoff of nine confirmation hearings this week for Trump’s nominees.
On Wednesday, five of Trump's high-level cabinet nominees are scheduled to face Senate committees. That's the same day the President-elect holds his first news conference since November's election and the same day key votes are scheduled in the Senate.
Democrats argue that attention will be drawn away from the hearings, which won't give lawmakers or the public a chance to assess the nominees.
But the scheduling of multiple confirmation hearings on the same day is not rare. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, rebuffed Democratic calls to slow down the rapid process.
In an interview with CBS News on Sunday, McConnell pointed to eight years ago, when President Barack Obama was president-elect.
“We confirmed seven Cabinet appointments the day President Obama was sworn in. We didn’t like most of them either. But he won the election,” McConnell said.
Asked about McConnell’s comments, Shaheen told NH1 News “this is not what we did eight years ago. I was there.”
“The Republican leadership is talking about asking us to act on nominees who have not been through the vetting process, who have not submitted paperwork, who have not been cleared by the Ethics Office, who have not had FBI background checks. So this is very different than what we did eight years ago. And that needs to be done before we actually have these hearings, before we vote on these nominees,” she added.
Hassan said that “it is absolutely essential that we have time to thoroughly vet these nominees as well as ask the questions that are on the mind of all Americans about their views on critical issues about the departments they’re planning to lead. So it is very concerning. Jeanne and I have both asked leadership to slow this process down so that there can be the proper vetting and the proper questioning and they have just been resistant to doing that.”
Shaheen sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Wednesday begins holding a confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state. Shaheen met late last week with Tillerson, who recently stepped down after serving for a decade as chief executive officer of Exxon-Mobil.
With U.S. intelligence reports pointing to Russian hacking and leaking of Democratic Party emails last year to try and help Trump in the presidential election, Tillerson’s close relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin is under the microscope.
Asked about her meeting, Shaheen said Tillerson “was pretty non-committal on any specifics in respects to Russia but I think we’ll have an opportunity at the hearing this week to question him very directly and get his responses on the record and see where he stands.”
Senators call for more ‘action’ against Russia
And Shaheen called for a tougher stance against Moscow in the wake of the tampering.
“The information that I’ve seen that has been classified has been very disturbing. This is a strategy that Russia’s been using across eastern Europe and in the United State to undermine our values and undermine western democracy. And we cannot let that stand. We have got to take action. I think President Obama’s action’s last week were very important and as we heard at the hearing we had at the Armed Services Committee last week, we heard in a bipartisan way that there are others that think that we need to take even more drastic action. I hope that as much of this report that can be declassified as possible so the American people can see what’s gone on. Because none of my friends and neighbors think that Russia should be able to influence our elections here in America.”
Hassan urged people to look at the 25 pages of the report by U.S. intelligence that was declassified last week.
“I’ve read it and it is compelling. And so I do hope too that more of the report can be declassified but in the meantime Granite Staters and Americans can go look at the report themselves and make their own decisions and I think if they do, they will see very strong and overwhelming evidence that Russia interfered with our electoral process. It is trying to undermine our democracy because they see our democracy as a threat to them. And all Americans should unite in demanding even stronger sanctions against Russia. Demanding more investigation. And as a member of the Homeland Security Committee, one of the things that I plan to address is how we can make our cyber system stronger and can have better defense against cyber-attacks,” she added.
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