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January 24, 2017

The Senate confirmation hearing for Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) took a rather odd turn Tuesday when Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) proceeded to pull up photographs comparing the inauguration crowds of former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump.

"Which crowd is larger?" Merkley asked Mulvaney, Trump's nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget.

"Senator, if you would allow me to give the disclaimer that I'm not really sure how this ties to OMB, I'll be happy to answer your question, which is from that picture it does appear that the [Obama crowd] is bigger than the [Trump crowd]," Mulvaney replied.

Merkley then got to his point: "The president disagreed … he said, 'It's a lie' … The reason I'm raising this is because budget often contains varied deceptions. You and I talked in my office about the 'magic asterisk.' This is an example of where the president's team — on something very simple and straightforward — wants to embrace a fantasy rather than a reality." Watch the full line of inquiry below. Jeva Lange

January 24, 2017

At his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), President Trump's nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget, clarified that he does not think Social Security or Medicare are "unconstitutional" — despite his vote in the South Carolina Senate in 2009 declaring both programs exactly that. He also reassured the Senate Budget Committee that his description of Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme" was simply a way of explaining the program's cash flow. "I wouldn't read too much into [my] description of it as a Ponzi scheme," Mulvaney said.

However, while Mulvaney said he would not "be arguing to the president of the United States" that either of those programs are "unconstitutional," he did indicate he would push Trump to make changes to entitlement programs, which Trump has promised not to cut. "The only thing I know to do is tell the president the truth," Mulvaney said, arguing that the programs are not sustainable and that funds would soon run dry; he suggested means-testing Medicare or raising the retirement age for Social Security.

Even before Mulvaney's hearing began, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was tweeting his concerns, suggesting Mulvaney's nomination meant Trump "doesn't intend to not cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid":

Watch Sanders question Mulvaney below. Becca Stanek

January 24, 2017

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), faces his second day of grilling before the Senate on Tuesday over his nomination for health and human services secretary. While Price has already faced intense scrutiny from Democrats, the hearing Tuesday was briefly interrupted when Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) went off topic to ask Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) during a transition, "Did you really wink at me and smile? Bless your heart."

Roberts previously needled Wyden at Steven Mnuchin's Senate confirmation hearing, suggesting the senator take a Valium.

Never let anyone tell you Senate confirmation hearings are dull! Jeva Lange

January 23, 2017

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote on President Donald Trump's secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, on Monday. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) could potentially upset a smooth nomination process if he decides to vote "no" on Tillerson; while Rubio's no vote wouldn't concretely stop Tillerson from being confirmed, it would send him to the Senate floor without a positive recommendation, an "embarrassing rebuke to Trump just as his presidency gets underway," Time writes.

Rubio stood up to Tillerson on the issue of Russia and human rights earlier this month, but other top Republican senators, including John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), have, after some deliberation, announced their support of the former ExxonMobil executive. Jeva Lange

January 19, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump's treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, did not necessarily find friendly faces among each and every Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. During Mnuchin's hearing Thursday, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) repeatedly pressed Mnuchin, specifically on the issue of the tax cut that comes with repealing ObamaCare.

Mnuchin did not directly commit to an answer: "I haven't been as involved in the 'repeal and replace,'" he said, when asked who would benefit from the tax cut that would come with repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) also pressed Mnuchin on whether any taxpayer making under $200,000 a year would see even "a dime" of the ObamaCare tax cuts. Mnuchin admitted most of the ObamaCare taxes currently in place are on the wealthy — who would then stand to benefit if they were repealed — but asserted that tax reform "overall" will be scrutinized. Jeva Lange

January 19, 2017

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) held nothing back while grilling President-elect Donald Trump's treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, on Thursday. McCaskill used the entirety of her time to press Mnuchin on the issue of Trump's potential conflicts of interest due to his global business, wondering aloud if Trump would fire the government ethics officer in order to install someone more favorable to his organization's interests.

At one point during the questioning, McCaskill asked: "Do you agree your boss is famous for firing people?"

Mnuchin, cornered, admitted: "Well, he has a show about it."

McCaskill continued, asking Mnuchin, "Isn't it true that a lot of [Trump's] debt is held by foreign interests?" Mnuchin deflected: "I don't know, I've just read it in the papers."

"Do you think you should know that, as someone who runs the committee on foreign investments, if we're talking about the commander-in-chief?" McCaskill pressed.

Mnuchin mostly agreed: "I think you have a valid point," he said. Jeva Lange

January 19, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump's tax plan has been criticized by some analysts for possibly adding "trillions" to the national debt and significantly benefiting high-income households. When pressed on the issue during his Senate confirmation hearing, Trump's treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, seemed to admit that the plan was less than ideal:

"I think, as you know, we had a rather modest campaign staff relative to the other people out there," Mnuchin said. "One of the things I look forward to if I'm confirmed is having access to all the people at the Treasury who are able to model these things." Watch below. Jeva Lange

January 19, 2017

The Senate hearing for President-elect Donald Trump's treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, took a deep dive into the question of whether Mnuchin simply forgot to list on his financial paperwork that he is the director of an investment fund based in the Cayman Islands, as he claims, or whether he was trying to cover up his involvement in tax loopholes, as some of his critics believe.

"The difference between investing in the United States or the Cayman Islands is the possibility of avoiding U.S. tax laws," Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said. "You've made it very clear that you paid your taxes … but the entities that you were helping or that you were making money from, you were helping them avoid U.S. taxes."

Mnuchin repeatedly defended his failure to list himself as the fund director in his initial disclosures by saying the forms are very complicated. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) defended Mnuchin, stepping in to say, "It is a bit ironic and a bit hypocritical that my friends on the other side of the aisle have suddenly found religion on offshore account holding. Evidently, memories are short: At least two of President Obama's nominees who now serve in his Cabinet had Cayman Island holdings."

Watch some of the grilling below. Jeva Lange

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