In pre-dawn session, Senate advances Trump agenda

(Photo Credit: Todd via Flickr Creative Commons)

Before the sun even rose over the U.S. Capitol Friday, the Senate convened a rare early morning session. FSRN’s Nell Abram has more.

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Their first vote was on a resolution to repeal a regulation that requires extractive industries like mining, oil and gas to disclose payments they make to foreign governments for access to their natural resource deposits. The rule originally aimed to create transparency in US-based corporate actions in resource-rich developing nations rife with corruption and human rights violations. The bill has already passed the House and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law.

It’s just one of a raft of Obama-era regulations that are on the GOP chopping block. This week the Senate also unpacked the “stream protection rule,” which when finalized will allow coal companies to dump mining waste in waterways again. And the House dismantled a requirement that the Social Security Administration report individuals with mental health issues severe enough to qualify them for disability support… to the national gun background check system.

But the main reason for Friday’s pre-dawn Senate session was to get the clock moving toward a final vote on the highly controversial nominee for Secretary of Education, school-voucher proponent and billionaire Betsy DeVos.

While the motion to end debate passed on party lines, so far two Republicans have pledged to vote against the nominee when the final vote comes to the floor: Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski.

That makes the margin razor thin. As the count stands now, DeVos would win the post only with Vice President Pence casting a tie-breaker; if one more Republican Senator cross the aisle her nomination would fail.

“The nominee for the Secretary of Education is one of the worst nominees that has ever been brought before this body for a cabinet position,” New York Senator Chuck Schumer said during the early morning session. “On the grounds of competence, on the grounds of ideology and on the grounds of conflict of interest, she scores very, very low.

The Senate Minority Leader implored his Republican colleagues abandon party loyalty and vote accordingly.

“So I would urge my colleagues over the weekend, those who have committed and those who have not, to look into their consciences. Sometimes, loyalty to a new president demands a bit too much. With this nominee, it does. Please think about it over the weekend. This person, Ms. Devos, does not deserve to be Secretary of Education.”

Other nominees still embroiled in the confirmation process include the nominees to lead the Treasury Department, Health and Human Services, and the EPA.

And while the president’s pick for Attorney General, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, has advanced to full Senate debate, his nomination grew increasingly contentious this week. Senate Democrats questioned his ability to reject a presidential order if he thinks it’s illegal. The concern grew after President Trump summarily fired the acting U.S. Attorney General, Sally Yates, saying she had QUOTE ‘betrayed” the Department of Justice by directing her staff to refrain from legally enforcing the travel ban targeting citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations.

President Trump is expected to issue more executive orders Friday, targeting the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, also known as Dodd-Frank, and lifting a regulation that requires financial advisers act in the best interests of their clients with retirement accounts.

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