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Senate committee pushes Trump's Treasury, Health nominees through without Democrats present

Amid a second day of Democratic boycott, the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday cleared President Donald Trump's nominees to lead the Treasury and Health and Human Services departments.

The committee voted to send the nominations of Treasury pick Steven Mnuchin and HHS choice Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., to the full Senate following a change of rules that had required Democrats to be present. Republicans approved the nominees 14-0.

Republicans, with 52 seats in the Senate, will likely have little trouble confirming Mnuchin and Price in the full Senate.

Democrats accused both nominees of withholding crucial information after heated confirmation hearings. Critics of Price have focused on his investments in health-care companies, while those opposing Mnuchin have slammed him for his bank's behavior after the mortgage crisis and his possible financial entanglements.

Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, defended the move after the vote. He called them "unprecedented actions" in response to "unprecedented obstruction" from Democrats.

Ranking member Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., accused his Republicans colleagues of ignoring serious ethical problems.

"It seems to me the basic proposition of breaking the rules that you can in effect look the other way in the face of strong evidence of serious ethical problems … is exceptionally troubling," he told reporters.

On Monday, the day before the committee's vote, The Wall Street Journal reported that Price got a privileged offer to buy a biomedical stock at a discounted price, citing the company's officials. He was one of fewer than 20 Americans who were offered to buy Innate Immunotherapeutics' stock at a lower price, contrasting his testimony that they were "available to every single individual that was an investor at the time," according to the report.

Both Mnuchin and Price have said omissions of information were unintentional.

While Democrats seem to lack more procedural options to hold up the nominations, Wyden said he would "focus on getting the answers to our questions."