What the hell is wrong with Senate Democrats?

Here Are the Senate Democrats Who Have Voted for Trump's Nominees

Here Are the Senate Democrats Who Have Voted for Trump's Nominees

The Slatest
Your News Companion
Jan. 27 2017 5:44 PM

What the Hell Is Wrong With Senate Democrats?

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Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) (C), speaks while flanked by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA),(L), and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), during a news conference on Capitol Hill, January 5, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii won his race in November with nearly 74 percent of the vote. He had the biggest margin of victory of any senator on the ballot in 2016, in a state that gave Hillary Clinton her biggest margin. He is ensconced. By all rights he should be, if not a leader, at least a foot soldier in the Democratic resistance to President Trump.

It was perhaps with these things in mind that the Huffington Post interviewed him on Tuesday over his votes in favor of Donald Trump’s nominees—five in all thus far. The Democratic Party, Schatz explained, should work to approve “reasonable” Trump appointments. “The door swings both ways in Washington,” he said. “At some point we’re going to want a Democratic president to stand up a Cabinet. So we’re trying to be reasonable when the nominees are reasonable.”

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Leave aside for a moment Schatz’s evident willingness to support as “reasonable” the nomination of Mike Pompeo, a man who thinks the CIA’s torturers are “patriots,” as the agency’s director. As anyone who has been awake for the past eight years should be well aware, the notion that the Republican Party will reward Democrats in the future for their deference now is utterly laughable.

So just what the hell is going on in the Senate?

One can understand, perhaps, the ease with which Defense Secretary James Mattis won the support of Senate Democrats given the possibility that he’ll be a moderating influence on Trump’s foreign policy. The same is true, for similar reasons, of Nikki Haley’s confirmation as ambassador to the United Nations. Wilbur Ross and Elaine Chao’s fairly uncontroversial nominations sailed through the Senate Commerce Committee on voice votes—one can also understand, perhaps, Democrats having a hard time getting worked up over those two. But 37 Democrats in the Senate voting to confirm John Kelly as secretary of Homeland Security, even though he has pledged to go after sanctuary cities and declined to give a clear answer as to how he would deal with DREAMers? Fourteen Democrats voting to confirm Mike Pompeo, a man who said that Islamic leaders in America were generally complicit in terrorism, as CIA director? All 11 of the Senate Banking Committee’s Democrats voting unanimously—unanimously—to advance the nomination of Ben “Grain Silo” Carson—a man who has stated that he could not, in good conscience, vote for a Muslim president and is, by his own reported admission, unqualified to run any federal agency? What gives? The answer, as always, is the Democratic Party.

Part of the acquiescence may be explained by the electoral calendar. During Carson’s hearing, two of the Senate’s leading progressives,  Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, grilled Carson on the minimum wage, fair housing, and Trump’s conflicts of interest. But both voted for Carson anyway. Jennifer Bendery and Sam Stein of the Huffington Post suggest that Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown did so in part because both face re-election next year. “Warren has been criticized back home for being oppositional to Trump, and Brown, like nine other Democrats trying to hang on to their seats in two years, hails from a state that Trump carried in 2016,” they wrote. “For those members, there is some political upside to demonstrating willingness to work with Trump when the time and conditions allow it.”

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But that explanation only goes so far, as Schatz demonstrates. The broader truth is this: the Democrats, unlike the Republican Party, haven’t a clue how to build and wield power. As ThinkProgress’s Ned Resinkoff noted recently on Twitter, the GOP realized early on in the Obama administration that obstruction could have a strategically important galvanizing effect:

Trump is unprecedentedly unpopular for an incoming president. The political risks of opposing him are minimal and certainly dwarfed by the risks to weak-willed Democrats of alienating a newly energized base. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has opposed almost all of Trump’s nominees, is shrewd enough to see the writing on the wall. She will get a leg up as a leader of the #resistance should she run in 2020 despite her record of wobbly, Clintonesque centrism, simply for doing what should have been elementary for the rest of her colleagues.

Senate Democrats who can’t shake the party’s narcotizing addiction to civility and process can take comfort in the fact that opposition would not do anything materially to stop Trump from assembling a Cabinet. To oppose is simply to take a moral and strategically important stand against an administration already working around the clock to hurt some of the most vulnerable Americans and challenge the values the Democratic Party purports to stand for. All signs indicate that the party will find a spine when Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, and Scott Pruitt's nominations as Attorney General, Education Secretary, and EPA chief respectively come to a vote. That's all well and good. But resistance to Trump, if it is to be effective, ought not to be a part-time effort.

Here, we have listed the Democrats* who have supported Trump’s nominees in roll call votes.

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Gen. James Mattis for secretary of defense (full Senate vote)

Sen. Tammy Baldwin

Sen. Michael Bennet

Sen. Richard Blumenthal

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Sen. Cory Booker

Sen. Sherrod Brown

Sen. Maria Cantwell

Sen. Ben Cardin

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Sen. Tom Carper

Sen. Bob Casey

Sen. Chris Coons

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto

Sen. Joe Donnelly

Sen. Tammy Duckworth

Sen. Richard Durbin

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Kamala Harris

Sen. Maggie Hassan

Sen. Martin Heinrich

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

Sen. Mazie Hirono

Sen. Tim Kaine

Sen. Angus King

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Sen. Patrick Leahy

Sen. Joe Manchin

Sen. Ed Markey

Sen. Claire McCaskill

Sen. Robert Menendez

Sen. Jeff Merkley

Sen. Chris Murphy

Sen. Patty Murray

Sen. Bill Nelson

Sen. Gary Peters

Sen. Jack Reed

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Brian Schatz

Sen. Chuck Schumer

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen

Sen. Debbie Stabenow

Sen. Jon Tester

Sen. Tom Udall

Sen. Chris Van Hollen

Sen. Mark Warner

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Sen. Ron Wyden

Nikki Haley for U.N. ambassador (full Senate vote)

Sen. Tammy Baldwin

Sen. Michael Bennet

Sen. Richard Blumenthal

Sen. Cory Booker

Sen. Sherrod Brown

Sen. Maria Cantwell

Sen. Ben Cardin

Sen. Tom Carper

Sen. Bob Casey

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto

Sen. Joe Donnelly

Sen. Tammy Duckworth

Sen. Richard Durbin

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Sen. Kamala Harris

Sen. Maggie Hassan

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

Sen. Mazie Hirono

Sen. Tim Kaine

Sen. Angus King

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Sen. Patrick Leahy

Sen. Joe Manchin

Sen. Ed Markey

Sen. Claire McCaskill

Sen. Robert Menendez

Sen. Jeff Merkley

Sen. Chris Murphy

Sen. Patty Murray

Sen. Bill Nelson

Sen. Gary Peters

Sen. Jack Reed

Sen. Brian Schatz

Sen. Chuck Schumer

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen

Sen. Debbie Stabenow

Sen. Jon Tester

Sen. Chris Van Hollen

Sen. Mark Warner

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Sen. Ron Wyden

John Kelly for Homeland Security secretary (full Senate vote)

Sen. Tammy Baldwin

Sen. Michael Bennet

Sen. Sherrod Brown

Sen. Maria Cantwell

Sen. Ben Cardin

Sen. Tom Carper

Sen. Bob Casey

Sen. Chris Coons

Sen. Joe Donnelly

Sen. Tammy Duckworth

Sen. Richard Durbin

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Maggie Hassan

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

Sen. Mazie Hirono

Sen. Tim Kaine

Sen. Angus King

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Sen. Patrick Leahy

Sen. Joe Manchin

Sen. Ed Markey

Sen. Claire McCaskill

Sen. Robert Menendez

Sen. Chris Murphy

Sen. Patty Murray

Sen. Bill Nelson

Sen. Gary Peters

Sen. Jack Reed

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Brian Schatz

Sen. Chuck Schumer

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen

Sen. Debbie Stabenow

Sen. Jon Tester

Sen. Mark Warner

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo for C.I.A. director (full Senate vote)

Sen. Joe Donnelly

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Sen. Maggie Hassan

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

Sen. Tim Kaine

Sen. Angus King

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Sen. Joe Manchin

Sen. Claire McCaskill

Sen. Jack Reed

Sen. Brian Schatz

Sen. Chuck Schumer

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen

Sen. Mark Warner

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Not Voting: Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Chris Murphy

Ben Carson for Housing and Urban Development secretary (Senate Banking Committee vote)

Sen. Sherrod Brown

Sen. Jack Reed

Sen. Robert Menendez

Sen. Jon Tester

Sen. Mark Warner

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

Sen. Joe Donnelly

Sen. Brian Schatz

Sen. Chris Van Hollen

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto

*Senators Bernie Sanders and Angus King are independents who caucus with Democrats.