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Senate confirms Mnuchin as Treasury secretary
The Senate cleared Steve Mnuchin to be President Trump's Treasury secretary Monday evening, with one Democrat joining Republicans in approving the nomination.
The longtime Goldman Sachs's executive was confirmed 53-47 and is expected to be sworn in later Monday night.
Democrats don't have the manpower to block Trump's nominees on their own, but they signaled early on that Mnuchin would be a top target of opposition.
They're using the Senate's procedural rulebook to drag out debate on most Trump's picks for days, arguing they deserve higher scrutiny because of their vast financial holdings and business ties. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was the only member of the conference to help Mnuchin get over a procedural hurdle during an early Friday morning vote and the only Democrat to vote for final confirmation.
Progressives immediately pounced on Manchin's vote. Adam Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, warned the Democratic senator – who is up for reelection in 2018 – that he will hear from his constituents over the vote.
"Manchin's vote will not just hurt millions of people – it will hurt Democrats in 2018. Democrats in red states will lose badly in the 2018 general election if they don't excite voters by standing up to Wall Street and big-money interests with backbone," he said in a statement.
The Democratic National Committee blasted the confirmation Monday night.
"The muck in President Trump's swamp just got neck-deep. When millions of American families were losing their jobs, homes, savings, pensions and hope, Steven Mnuchin was making a fortune off their misery," interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile said in a statement.
"The bank he ran as a 'foreclosure machine' took the home of a 90-year-old widow for being 27 cents short on her mortgage, and it's facing more complaints that it deliberately targeted seniors with dementia.
"If it wasn't obvious yet that Trump's tough talk about 'draining the swamp' was a lie, Senate Republicans just confirmed it, and America's middle class will be left holding the bag."
Top Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), criticized Mnuchin in a press conference shortly ahead of the vote.
"President Trump told Steve Mnuchin – a Wall Street insider with decades of experience in that board room he described – 'you're hired,' as my Treasury Secretary no less," Schumer said on Monday. "That's a broken promise."
Democrats played a video during their press conference that included clips of Trump blasting Wall Street and "special interests" during the campaign, juxtaposed with comments from Senate Democrats accusing Trump of going back on his populist rhetoric.
Schumer lumped Mnuchin in with Andy Pudzer, Trump's pick to lead the Labor Department, and Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), nominated to lead the Office of Management and Budget, as three finance-related picks who Democrats believe will hurt working Americans.
Democrats have nicknamed Mnuchin the "foreclosure king," homing in on his time overseeing a wave of foreclosures at the California-based OneWest Bank between 2009 and 2015.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also argued that the Treasury pick will break the "Mnuchin rule," referring to the nominee's statement during his confirmation hearing that tax breaks for top income owners would be offset by closing other tax loopholes.
"Already that promise from Steve Mnuchin is on the ropes," Wyden, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, said on Monday. "Their tax legislation is a Trojan horse."
Wyden, as well as Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio), have accused Mnuchin of lying to the Finance Committee about the firm's practice of "robosigning."
Mnuchin said as part of his written response to the committee that OneWest did not practice robosigning, the practice by which an employee quickly signs a large quantity of financial documents without fully reviewing them.
But the Columbus Dispatch reported last month that Mnuchin misled the committee, pointing to documents from 2010 that showed the company used robosigning "frequently."
Mnuchin also pushed back against Democratic grilling about foreclosures, arguing he inherited the bank's bad loans and he tried to help families when federal rules allowed.
Republicans have rallied behind Mnuchin's nomination, arguing that while Democrats can slow down his confirmation, they can't change the eventual outcome.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) defended Trump's pick ahead of the vote, saying that accusations of Mnuchin lying are a "wild and brazen" attack.
"They should know that these tactics do absolutely nothing to help Americans seeking greater opportunities and economic growth," he said from the Senate floor.
Republicans, pointing to data from the Senate Historical Office, note that the pace of confirmation for Trump's nominees is the slowest since George Washington.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the tactics "disappointing."
"It's been really disappointing to see the historic level of obstruction by Senate Democrats," he said. "I'd like to remind our colleagues across the aisle of the very real consequences their actions have."
[Source: By Jordain Carney, The Hill, Washington, 13Feb17]
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