February 26, 2017
Democrat senators with White House ambitions are leading the charge to sink President Trump’s Cabinet picks.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is at the top. The New York Democrat has voted against 12 of Trump’s Cabinet picks and is the only Democrat to vote against confirming now-Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders(I-Vt.) are close behind, as all three have voted against 11 of Trump’s Cabinet picks.
All four senators are seen as possible contenders to run for the White House against Trump in 2020.
Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jeff Merkley(D-Ore.) have also voted against 11 of Trump’s nominees. Heinrich is up for reelection in 2018.
Freshman Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.), another Democrat frequently mentioned as a potential 2020 contender, has voted against 10 of Trump’s nominees.
Speaking out forcefully against Trump has been a must for anyone interested in taking advantage of the far-left’s anger over the president.
“What matters most about these early days of the Trump presidency is the degree into which people … stand up with backbone,” said Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC).
Gillibrand, 50, has voted against every Trump nominee with the exceptions of Nikki Haley as United Nations ambassador and David Shulkin for secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The votes have earned the two-term senator immediate national attention and could help put to bed skepticism that she’s too moderate compared to colleagues such as Warren and Sanders.
A spokesman for Gillibrand shot down speculation that the votes have anything to do with 2020, telling the Washington Post that the New York Democrat — who is also up for reelection in 2018 — is only considering each nominee’s “record and qualifications.”
Gillibrand also walked a line this week, tying herself to the “resistance” to Trump while downplaying her own role.
“I’m just a small piece of something much larger than myself,” she told late night TV host Seth Meyers. “We are all the resistance.”
Booker, 47, made headlines and history when he testified against then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) during his confirmation hearing to become attorney general — the first time a sitting senator testified against a colleague.
The only Trump Cabinet members he’s backed are Shulkin, Mattis and Haley.
Warren, 67, is seen by some as the front-runner for the 2020 Democrat nomination.
Her blistering speech against Sessions led Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to have the Senate vote to formally rebuke her.
McConnell’s comments that Warren had been warned about her slurs on Sessions but had “persisted” have become a rallying point for opponents of Trump — and won praise for the Massachusetts senator.
Like Booker, Warren has only voted for Shulkin, Mattis and Haley.
Sanders, 75, who narrowly lost the Democrat primary last year to Hillary Clinton, has played a huge role in the contest to pick a new Democratic National Committee chairman.
He has cast votes against all of Trump’s Cabinet members with the exceptions of Shulkin, Mattis and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
Harris, 52, used her maiden speech on the Senate floor to talk up the need to resist Trump.
“We have a responsibility to draw a line with these administration actions, and say no,” she said in the Feb. 16 speech.
Harris has voted for just Mattis, Haley, Shulkin and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
It’s possible the opposition by Democrats to Trump’s nominees could backfire in a general election if the members are seen as too partisan.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued that Democrats are currently suffering from a “fever” and under pressure from their base to oppose everything.
But in a primary, the votes against Trump’s Cabinet members speak volumes about a senator’s liberal bona fides.
In fact, it is votes for Trump Cabinet picks that can cause heartburn.
Warren found herself at the center of a progressive firestorm after she announced that she would support Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The liberal Daily Kos penned an article on Warren’s vote entitled “‘The Resistance’ crumbles: Warren approves Carson.”
The Massachusetts Democrat quickly went on the defense, saying in a Facebook post that the former neurosurgeon made “good, detailed promises.”
“Yes, he is not the nominee I wanted. But ‘the nominee I wanted’ is not the test,” she said.
A few Democrats have offered support for most of Trump’s nominees.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has voted for all but three of Trump’s nominees: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Right behind Manchin comes Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) who has voted against five of Trump’s nominees, and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) who has voted against six.
All three face tough reelection races next year in states won by Trump.