The hunt to bag and eliminate at least one of President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet members is running out of time. But the Democrats hoping to prove they still have some clout on Capitol Hill just got a big assist from the oldest and most effective ally any political combatant can hope for: Scandal. And that's bad news for a one of Trump's appointees who just happens to start confirmation hearings Wednesday.
The battle over presidential cabinet appointments is always a partisan battle. But partisan differences are never a good enough reason to publicly nix an appointee. Some kind of illegal act or an investigation into an alleged illegal act is just about the only thing that does the trick. And new allegations against Trump's HHS Secretary-Designate Tom Price have come just in time for Democrats on the hunt.
Price, who has been a Member of Congress for 12 years, is suddenly under scrutiny. CNN reported that he bought up to $15,000 worth of a medical device maker and then introduced a bill that would have protected or at least delayed new regulations that would have harmed the company's bottom line.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer jumped on the story Tuesday and told reporters that Price "may have broken the law." Price's office says the investment was made by a fund manager without Price's specific knowledge, but the question is: Are Price and his nomination really in jeopardy?
Since these confirmation battles are truly a practice in revenge and "tit for tat," it's important to note that what Price is accused of here falls about in the middle when it comes to financial magnitude for troubled nominees. President Obama had two cabinet appointees forced to drop out because of questions about or formal investigations into alleged financial issues.
His HHS Secretary nominee Tom Daschle dropped out of consideration when it turned out he had failed to pay about $140,000 in taxes. And President Obama's original choice for Commerce Secretary, Bill Richardson, stepped away from consideration because of an ongoing federal investigation into contracts the state of New Mexico awarded to a Richardson campaign donors when he was governor of that state. (That probe was later dropped).
Those two examples from the Obama era would seem to put Price in a safer zone at least when total dollar values are concerned, but passing a bill to benefit a new investment is a much bigger deal than the one issue that had derailed the most cabinet appointees over the last 24 years: Illegal nannies and housekeepers. A whopping combined total of five Bill Clinton and George W. Bush nominees for cabinet positions all stepped down because, or partly because they employed undocumented immigrants in their homes. Compared to your garden variety "nannygate," these accusations against Price certainly seem much worse.
And a big part of what makes them worse is the simplicity of it all. Consider that before these allegations about Price's stock purchase surfaced Monday night, Treasury Secretary-Designate Seth Mnuchin was the likely best bet to be forced to step down. The fact that he ran a bank some called a "foreclosure machine" during the aftermath of the mortgage crisis certainly made him easy to paint as a bad guy.