The Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee withdrew from the committee’s business Tuesday, forcing the committee to delay voting on confirming Steven Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary and Rep. Thomas E. Price (R.-Ga.) for Health and Human Services Secretary.
Leading the walkout was Sen. Ron Wyden (D.-Ore.), the committee’s ranking member, who said the extreme action was a tactic to force Mnuchin and Price to answer questions from the Democrats.
Wyden said he opposes both men for nomination.
“This morning, the Finance Committee was scheduled to vote on two nominees who have misled the public and held back important information about their backgrounds,” he said. “Until questions are answered, Democrats believe the committee should not move forward with either nomination.”
Senate Finance Committee rules require at least one member of the minority party to be present for the committee to conduct official business.
Wyden said he was not satisfied with the answer Price gave him regarding his stock trading.
“I asked Congressman Price directly if he got an exclusive discount on stock in an Australian biomedical firm, and he said no,” the senator said. “From the committee’s investigation to company documents to the company officials’ own words, the evidence tells a different story. It looks more and more like Congressman Price got special access to a special deal.”
The Oregon senator said he was also concerned about the fullness and veracity of Mnuchin’s answers regarding his leadership at OneWest Bank.
“Mr. Mnuchin denied that OneWest Bank under his leadership engaged in robo-signing foreclosure documents, but that is indisputably false,” he said.
“Court documents and testimony show that OneWest employees processed hundreds of documents a week, spending only seconds on each, and they routinely did so without verifying their contents,” he said. “What OneWest did is the textbook definition of shady robo-signing practices.”
Robo-signing was a common practice in the middle of the last decade as the real estate boom overwhelmed the capacity of banks and other financial and real estate companies to properly review documents. Lawyers have challenged documents that were approved by under-trained and under-supervised employees under pressure to process paperwork more quickly, which produced the robo-signing practice.
Wyden said Democrats on the Finance Committee are committed to denying quorum for the committee until they have their concerns allayed and questions answered in regards to Mnuchin and Price.
“The Finance Committee needs to continue following its bipartisan vetting process that has been upheld for more than 20 years,” the senator said. “This is about getting answers to questions, plain and simple. Ethics laws are not optional, and nominees do not have a right to treat disclosure like a shell game.”