Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee suspended the rules Wednesday morning to vote on cabinet nominees Steven Mnuchin and Tom Price without any Democrats present.
The Democratic members of the committee boycotted the votes on Tuesday, charging Mnuchin, who is nominated for treasury secretary, and Price, who is President Donald Trump's pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services, with misleading the panel during confirmation hearings.
When Democrats also refused to show up on Wednesday, Republicans agreed by unanimous consent to change the committee's standing rules, "which normally require at least one member of each party to be in attendance for committee work to proceed," as The Hill explains.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who initiated Tuesday's boycott, tweeted a photo of the half-full hearing room on Wednesday:
— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) February 1, 2017
"Steven Mnuchin is such an illegitimate, compromised nominee that Republicans had to change the rules to force through his nomination, just like Mnuchin will change the rules on Wall Street to favor bankers and billionaires at the expense of working families," the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said in a statement.
Mnuchin and Price now head to the Senate floor, where tensions are rising.
Meanwhile, news outlets report that Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee employed a similar tactic on Wednesday, boycotting the vote on Trump's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt.
The committee is half full / the committee is half empty. pic.twitter.com/8FOILNYV1j
— Alex Guillen (@alexcguillen) February 1, 2017
— Jason Kowalski (@JasonK350) February 1, 2017
"Today's actions by Democrats to resist Scott Pruitt's nomination were necessary and commendable," said Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter. "Pruitt is wholly unfit and unqualified to lead the EPA, and anything done by anyone to prevent his confirmation must be welcomed and encouraged. Sadly, efforts by Senate Republicans to move Pruitt's nomination forward confirm what we now know to be true: most Republicans hold an aggressive disdain for science, public health, and commonsense environmental protection."
"Moving forward," she said, "any senator of either party that supports Pruitt's nomination will be judged as anti-science, anti-health, and anti-environment, and be held appropriately accountable by the people."
Added May Boeve, executive director of 350.org: "The resistance strikes back. With Pruitt refusing to answer the most basic questions about his fossil fuel industry connections, Democrats are right to protest. This is the sort of principled leadership that the public is demanding from their elected officials."