Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, called on Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin to answer a handful of in-depth questions to get clarity on where he truly stands on key housing issues.
In the short time since President-elect Donald Trump tapped Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary, he has made critical statements about Dodd-Frank and reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Now, as the Senate mulls confirmations, Brown is asking for Mnuchin to expand on his statements.
Mnuchin, a former executive at Goldman Sachs and the former chairman of OneWest Bank, is Trump’s choice to lead the Department of the Treasury, but is already in the hot seat with Senate Democrats.
Earlier this month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., took to Twitter to urge people to come forward who may have been “impacted” by OneWest’s practices.
Warren's tweets included a link to a post on the official website of the Senate Democrats, inviting people to submit complaints about Mnuchin for his role in the “foreclosure machine.”
It appears that the Democrats will seek to use Mnuchin’s time at OneWest as part of their case against approving him as Treasury secretary, calling Mnuchin the "foreclosure king.
Brown, the ranking member of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over Mnuchin’s nomination, is asking the potential secretary to give his views on the oversight of Wall Street, the housing finance system, fair-lending laws and economic sanctions.
“Working people need a Treasury Secretary who will work for them, not Wall Street," Brown said. “The American public deserves to know where Mnuchin stands on the important housing and finance issues that he will oversee. While he made a fortune from the financial crisis, far too many Ohioans have yet to recover from it.”
Mnuchin is still waiting to be confirmed by the Senate. An article in ABC News by Maryalice Parks explains the process:
- A nomination is given to the relevant Senate committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee, for example, handles the attorney general nomination.
- That committee can then hold hearings, vote to move the nomination straight to the Senate floor for a vote or not move on it at all (in which case, the committee effectually kills the nomination).
- After hearings, the committee votes to report a nomination to the full Senate, requiring a simple majority. It may vote to report the nomination favorably, unfavorably or without recommendation. If a committee sits on an appointment, the full Senate may vote to invoke cloture and move the nomination along.
- If a nomination clears committee, it moves to the Senate floor for a simple majority vote.
The article noted that hearings can and will likely start pretty soon after the 115th Congress is sworn in Jan. 3, 2017, and a nominee may not be confirmed until after the president is sworn in on Jan. 20.
This helps explains Brown’s deadline of Jan. 6, 2017 for Mnuchin to provide responses.
However, Mnuchin’s spokeswomen stated in a comment, "Several weeks ago we reached out to request a meeting for Treasury Nominee Steven Mnuchin to meet with Senator Brown, and to date Senator Brown has not accepted. Mr. Mnuchin looks forward to the Confirmation process and to meeting Senator Brown to discuss issues important to the Senator."
Because Mnuchin does not appear before the Banking Committee as part of his nomination process, Brown wrote, “I am submitting the following questions relevant to the Committee’s jurisdiction over the Department of Treasury in the hopes that you can shed some light on your views and record for our members, as these topics are of great importance to our nation.”
Check out the full 11 questions in the letter here, but here are a few to get you started:
1. As a former partner at Goldman Sachs, reportedly overseeing the mortgage-trading desk, you have described structured financial products as “an extremely positive development in terms of being able to finance different parts of the economy and different businesses efficiently.” What are your views on the role these products played in the financial crisis of 2008? Will you be a strong defender of the regulatory framework created by Dodd-Frank for complex securities and derivatives? If not, why not?
2. As chairman and CEO of a financial institution that has been labeled a “foreclosure machine” do you believe the federal government should maintain its loss mitigation and foreclosure prevention programs or not? Will you support the regulatory efforts of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, including those affecting mortgage servicers or not?
3. You recently stated that, “We’ve got to get Fannie and Freddie out of government ownership. It makes no sense that these are owned by the government and have been controlled by the government for as long as they have… [W]e gotta get them out of government control.” Please explain what you meant by this statement.
Brown concluded his letter stating, “As you prepare for the nomination process, and Congress prepares to fulfill our role in providing advice and consent on nominees that come before the Senate, I appreciate your willingness to provide us information on these important issues.”