WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans will move this week to speed the confirmation of President Trump’s cabinet, an effort that has been stymied by the combination of lax preparation by Mr. Trump’s transition team, his many unorthodox nominees, and Democrats spoiling for a fight, albeit with few cards in their deck.
On Monday, the Senate will vote on the confirmation of Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, after Democrats used one of the few procedural maneuvers left to them to force a debate on his inevitable approval.
Republicans had hoped to push through Mr. Pompeo and others last Friday, but were able to confirm only two: James N. Mattis for defense secretary and John F. Kelly to lead Homeland Security. President Obama had seven nominees approved on his first day in office.
Also on Monday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on Mr. Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, whose road to confirmation has been bumpy. Mr. Tillerson received a lift on Sunday when two Republicans, Senator John McCain of Arizona and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said they would support him, after weeks of public hedging.
Mr. Tillerson has drawn scrutiny over his business ties with Russia and his personal relationship with President Vladimir V. Putin when he was the chief executive of Exxon Mobil. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, has hinted that he might join Democrats in rejecting him, which would lead to the unusual spectacle of a nominee facing the full Senate without a positive recommendation from the committee that held his confirmation hearing.
Other nominees have been impeded by attempts to untangle their conflicts of interest, a process that Mr. Trump’s transition team started far later than its predecessors and that has led to embarrassing revelations.
A committee vote for Betsy DeVos, a billionaire who is Mr. Trump’s nominee for education secretary, has been delayed by a week to give senators more time to review her voluminous ethics paperwork, which was released after her hearing last week. Other nominees have been delayed for similar reasons.
Last week, Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, Mr. Trump’s choice for White House budget director, disclosed that he had failed to pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a household employee. Steven T. Mnuchin, Mr. Trump’s Treasury secretary nominee, failed to list nearly $100 million in assets on his federal disclosure forms, an oversight that gave Democrats a club with which to beat on him in his Finance Committee hearing last week.
“Advise and consent doesn’t mean ram it through,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “If I were the Republicans, of course I’d want to ram a cabinet like this through.”
Whether these mistakes will thwart the eventual confirmation of any nominee remains in doubt. For all the intraparty rancor and Never-Trumpism during the campaign, Republicans appear to have closed ranks on Capitol Hill to protect their unusual president and his cabinet choices, for now.
They have, when possible, prevented Democrats from grilling the nominees too hard, as was the case with Ms. DeVos, when Republicans shut down the hearing after one round of questions from eager lawmakers.
Ms. DeVos had been struggling through a series of befuddling answers that raised questions about her grasp of federal education policy, including one flourish — replayed widely on social media and cable television — in which she suggested that school officials should be armed to protect against prospective grizzly bears on the premises.
In other cases, Republicans have rushed to the defense of nominees under fire, as when Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, suggested during Mr. Mnuchin’s hearing that Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, needed to take a Valium.
For their part, Democrats showed the frustration that is likely to surface repeatedly now that they have lost the White House, and do not have the filibuster available to them.
But their approach in confirmation hearings, raw and blunt after a bitter election defeat, probably presages the tactics that lawmakers are already learning in the Trump era — and the defensive maneuvers Republicans will employ.
Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, excoriated the civil rights record of Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama and Mr. Trump’s pick for attorney general, breaking with a long-held Senate custom of comity in the chamber.
Democrats lobbed hours of questions at Representative Tom Price of Georgia, the nominee for secretary of health and human services, about his trading of stocks in health care companies that may have benefited from his legislating, keeping Mr. Price on the defensive heading into another confirmation hearing this week.
“I’ve noticed that the questioning frequently has an edge to it,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. “That is not to say that there aren’t legitimate questions to be asked of the nominees. But it’s the way they’re asked that I’ve found to be different this time.”
The Senate typically confirms nearly all of a president’s cabinet, and many Democrats, if not most, will vote for the bulk of Mr. Trump’s nominees. Democrats changed Senate rules when they were in power to make cabinet nominees subject to a mere majority — rather than 60 — vote threshold, empowering Mr. Trump to send up more conservative and unusual choices.
Their numbers limited, Democrats have opted to put Republicans on the defensive as much as possible. Mr. Booker’s decision to testify against a fellow senator particularly rankled opponents, who accused him of grandstanding.
In other moments, Republicans have chafed more at Democrats’ tone than at the content of their remarks.
Democrats are eager to argue the irony of any complaints about partisanship and obstructionism. Many remain bitter over Republicans’ blockade of Merrick B. Garland, Mr. Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court, in his final year in office.
“The Republican majority in the United States Senate refused a hearing and a vote on a nominee to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, after Mr. McConnell chastised Democrats for refusing to consent to a speedy confirmation of nominees on Friday. “That position on the highest court in the land remained vacant because of the specific political strategy of the Republican leader on the other side.”
Others have pointed to the relentless inquiries into Hillary Clinton and the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, wondering aloud why only a single round of questions was allowed in hearings for Ms. DeVos and Mr. Price.
After going over his allotted time questioning Mr. Price, Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, grumbled that he would cede time in the nonexistent second round.
Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, was not amused. He later noted that Mr. Price had been questioned more than any nominee to the post in more than two decades.
“You may be here by yourself,” Mr. Alexander told Mr. Franken.“The Benghazi hearing was 11 hours,” Mr. Franken shot back. “That’s all I’m saying.”
Paul C. Light, a professor of public service at New York University who has worked on Capitol Hill as an adviser on transitions, said the confirmation process had made clear that standards for acceptable nominee conduct have changed. “There doesn’t seem to be any controversy about things that used to be controversial,” he said. “We’ve lowered the bar in terms of offenses that would have taken out nominees.”