Key members of the Senate are speaking highly of President-elect Trump’s choice for Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, even as many analysts anticipate a difficult confirmation hearing.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in a statement:
It is time to get serious about the problems families and businesses large and small across the nation face. Whether it is the urgent need for tax reform or wide-ranging regulatory relief, we will need someone like Steven working with both parties in Congress to make it happen. His private sector expertise will be valuable as we begin to tackle these challenges and reverse the last eight years of economic heartache.
Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said, after meeting with Mnuchin:
Over the last eight years, hard-working middle-class families and even businesses on Main Street have been squeezed by the Obama Administration’s failed economic policies. Bigger government, higher taxes and rising debt has left our great nation in the lurch, and it’s past time we act to right our economic ship. Through his private sector background, Steven will have to untangle the web of red tape found in our mammoth tax code and navigate a minefield of heavy-handed regulations that have stifled opportunity and growth, He has a deep understanding of the fiscal challenges we face and can play an important role to help bridge the divide and craft bipartisan solutions that will promote the long-term health and prosperity of the American economy.”
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), a former Finance Committee chairman, said Mnuchin is “a person that understands a lot about the financial and fiscal situation in the federal government and the private sector.”
On the other hand, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) mocked Mnuchin as “the Forrest Gump of the financial crisis,” because she saw him as involved in everything bad that came out of Wall Street over the past two decades.
“His selection as Treasury secretary should send shivers down the spine of every American who got hit hard by the financial crisis, and is the latest sign that Donald Trump has no intention of draining the swamp and every intention of running Washington to benefit himself and his rich buddies,” Warren said.
Newsweek lists Mnuchin as one of the eight Trump nominees in Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s “crosshairs” (with the other seven pretty much lined up behind Target Number One, Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.) That’s awfully ungracious of Schumer, whose political campaigns have received several donations from Mnuchin over the years, but clearly the Democrats think they can at least draw some blood from Republicans during Mnuchin’s confirmation hearing, even if they can’t prevent him from taking office.
The comments from these Senators summarize the opposing narratives that will collide during Mnuchin’s confirmation hearings. Republicans will praise his commitment to growth — he has said sustained GDP growth of 4% is doable with the right policies — and his commitment to tax and regulatory reform.
Mnuchin’s detractors will point to Trump campaign ads that hammered Goldman Sachs, where he was a partner, and say Trump is betraying his “drain the swamp” promises. They’ll make a great deal of noise about the mortgage foreclosure policies of OneWest Bank (formerly IndyMac Bank), which became very profitable after Mnuchin and his investment partners turned it around. They’ll warn that the sky will fall after Mnuchin neutralizes the Dodd-Frank banking reforms. The Democrats’ anti-Wall Street faction, heavily muzzled during Hillary Clinton’s presidential run, will go after Trump’s Treasury nominee with a vengeance.
The Financial Times expects Democrats to give Mnuchin the “roughest possible ride,” noting that over in the House, ranking Financial Services Democrat Maxine Waters insists Mnuchin’s “mistreatment” of homeowners through OneWest Bank “clearly disqualifies” him from serving as Treasury Secretary. In fact, she accused Mnuchin’s bank of engaging in “massive fraud” as it “profited off the backs of Americans that his company threw out into the street.”
“Advocacy groups are also urging voters in states badly affected by foreclosures to agitate against Mr. Mnuchin’s candidacy. Allied Progress, a progressive group, has been running advertising campaigns in Arizona and Nevada calling on Republican senators Jeff Flake and Dean Heller to reject him,” the Financial Times adds.
The FT also expects Democrats to grandstand against tax and regulatory reform during Mnuchin’s hearings. “The most egregious part of Republican tax plans is how regressive they are,” sneered Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), giving Mnuchin a preview of the policy questions he can expect from the other side of the aisle.
However, over at the New York Times, Mnuchin was called “more pragmatist than ideologue,” and his nomination is said to “bode well for America’s fiscal policy,” because he doesn’t seem interested in the political limelight.
Mnuchin, like the other Trump nominees, is currently training for his confirmation hearing with mock-up exercises that are so grueling they’re known as “murder boards.” Politico notes that the nominees are prepping not only for serious policy questions and the personal pet-peeves of powerful Senators, but also for “questions on quotidian transactions like the price of milk or a gallon of gas — fearful the billionaires might seem out of touch if they stumble in their answers.”
In Mnuchin’s case, he’ll not only have to ace the “Price is Right” segment of the confirmation game show with accurate figures for the current cost of Rice Krispies, but he’ll also have to deal with being the symbolic target of Democrat narratives on class warfare, high taxes, and the evils of “unregulated” banking, plus a concerted effort to attack Trump as hypocritical for abandoning campaign promises. The Democrats probably won’t be able to collect a scalp, so they’ll want to show their demoralized supporters they can rough up every Trump nominee.