Some say Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin will be more willing to reach a settlement with GSE shareholders.
Some say Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin will be more willing to reach a settlement with GSE shareholders. Image: Bloomberg News

Democrats boycotted the Senate Finance Committee's planned vote Tuesday on the nomination of Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin, temporarily stalling it from moving forward.

Under panel rules, Republicans need at least one Democrat to show up in order to proceed with the vote, but Democrats instead said they would not do so until Mnuchin answered additional questions about his actions at OneWest Bank following the financial crisis. Similarly, the move denied a vote for Human and Health Services Director-designate Tom Price, who is also under fire for allegedly not telling the truth about certain investments.

"We're not going to the committee today because we want the committee to regroup, get the information, have these two nominees come back in front of the committee, clarify what they lied about," Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the top Democrat on the Banking Committee who also has a seat on the finance panel, told reporters.

Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the finance committee, pointed to statements from Mnuchin, who chaired OneWest Bank, that claimed it had not engaged in robo-signing under his watch.

"Mr. Mnuchin denied that OneWest Bank under his leadership engaged in robo-signing foreclosure documents, but that is indisputably false," Wyden 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. What OneWest did is the textbook definition of shady robo-signing practices."

But the Democrats' tactic drew a swift and furious response from Republicans.

"Frankly, it's abysmal," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "I've never seen anything like this, the lack of a desire to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities."

Hatch became more upset after waiting for Democrats to show up.

"This is the most pathetic thing I've seen in my time in the United States Senate," Hatch said. "They ought to be embarrassed."

Mnuchin has become a target for Democrats who have questioned his ethics, pointing to OneWest's reputation for aggressively foreclosing on borrowers during the financial crisis.

Without approval by the Senate Finance Committee, Republicans will now have to reschedule a vote of the committee, further delaying President Trump's Cabinet picks.

"I think this is a completely unprecedented level of obstruction," said Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., a member of the banking and finance committees. "I am really shocked and extremely disappointed. One way or another President Trump needs to have his Cabinet put in place."

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