Spicer’s comments underscore increasing tensions with Democrats on Capitol Hill as Republicans try to muscle through an array of nominees who require Senate confirmation, some of whom are facing questions about ethics and qualifications.
Trump has been pressing the Senate to sign off on as many of his nominees as possible after he is sworn in as president Friday.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that Democrats would agree to vote Friday on the nominations of defense secretary pick Gen. James Mattis and homeland security secretary choice Gen. John Kelly, both of whom have support on both sides of the aisle. Schumer added that Democrats would be willing to start debating Friday the nomination of CIA director nominee Mike Pompeo as well, and vote on his nomination if time allows.
But Spicer argued that there are others who could be confirmed promptly, citing three in particular: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for ambassador to the United Nations; Elaine Chao, who previously served as labor secretary, for transportation secretary; and Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, for secretary of housing and urban development.
Spicer said none of those three are on a “hit list” drawn up by Democrats, a group of eight nominees whose confirmation votes could be delayed until March amid frustrations about slow disclosure of financial interests and limited ability to ask questions at confirmation hearings.
“There is really no excuse for the delay tactics,” Spicer said Thursday. “It’s not about substance, it’s not about policy. ... It’s about partisan stuff.”
Schumer on Thursday accused Republicans of trying to “jam through [Trump’s] nominees” and “attempting to orchestrate a cover-up of the president-elect’s ‘swamp Cabinet’” – a term Democrats have adopted to mock Trump’s campaign promise to “drain the swamp.”
Ed O'Keefe and Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.