Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202)224-4515
Hatch Urges Colleagues to Confirm Mnuchin to Lead Treasury
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) highlighted Steven Mnuchin’s vast private sector experience and called on colleagues to support his nomination to be the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department. The Senate is expected to vote to confirm Mr. Mnuchin this evening.
“Mr. Mnuchin has 30 years of experience working in a variety of capacities in the financial sector,” Hatch said. “He has experience managing large and complicated private-sector enterprises and in negotiating difficult compromises and making tough decisions – and being accountable for those decisions. Mr. Mnuchin is clearly qualified to serve as Secretary of the United States Treasury.”
Hatch went on to note the unprecedented void in leadership at the Department of Treasury and urged Senate colleagues to put aside partisan tactics obstructing this crucial nominee.
“Mr. President, we are currently in the midst of the longest transitional leadership gap at the Department of the Treasury in our nation’s history. The Senate has never left Treasury without a confirmed Secretary in between administrations for this long,” Hatch continued. “These tactics do absolutely nothing to help American families seeking greater opportunities and economic growth. They don’t help us fix our broken tax code, reform our failing healthcare system, and empower businesses and job creators to grow and expand.”
The complete speech as prepared for delivery is below:
Mr. President, we are currently in the midst of the longest transitional leadership gap at the Department of the Treasury in our nation’s history. The Senate has never left Treasury without a confirmed Secretary in between administrations for this long.
Yet, despite the obvious need to fill this position, we have had to deal with continual – and pointless – delays, courtesy of some our colleagues.
I won’t begrudge any Senator for taking advantage of the privileges offered to them under the Rules of the Senate. However, I think we have ample reason to question some of our colleagues’ judgment and priorities with regard to how we’ve dealt with the nomination of Stephen Mnuchin to the office Treasury Secretary.
Let’s get the obvious points out of the way.
Mr. Mnuchin has 30 years of experience working in a variety of capacities in the financial sector.
He has experience managing large and complicated private-sector enterprises and in negotiating difficult compromises and making tough decisions – and being accountable for those decisions.
He has the support of a number of key organizations and associations within the finance industry and experts across the ideological spectrum have endorsed his nomination.
Long story short: Under any objective standard, Mr. Mnuchin has ample experience, credentials, and qualifications for this important position. Yet, my colleagues have done all they can under the rules – even to the point of casting aside some longstanding customs and traditions of the Senate – in order to delay his confirmation.
I won’t relive the entire chain of events that got this nomination through the Finance Committee, bringing us to this point.
For now, I would urge my colleagues to look fairly at the record. In every case, as the committee processed his nomination, Mr. Mnuchin responded to questions and allegations with full and complete answers and demonstrated no signs of acting or responding in bad faith toward the committee or its members.
People are free, I suppose, to walk into the confirmation process with an assumption of bad faith. But, throughout my time in the Senate – and keep in mind, I’ve been here a while – that isn’t usually how we operate.
My colleagues on the other side have put forward a number of claims and allegations about Mr. Mnuchin. They’ve essentially thrown everything – including the kitchen sink – at this nominee in a desperate attempt to block his confirmation.
Well, so far, Mr. President, nothing has worked. That’s because none of the allegations that my colleagues have raised can withstand even a modest amount of scrutiny. But, that hasn’t stopped some of them from trying.
I’ve found it particularly interesting to see my friends raise concerns about matters that didn’t bother them in the least when it came to voting for Democratic nominees for Treasury Secretary. Indeed, with regard to Mr. Mnuchin, my Democrat colleagues have created a wholly new set of standards from those that were applied to the most recent previous Treasury Secretary. Many issues that seemed to be of little or no concern to my friends on the other side during the confirmation process for Secretary Jack Lew have been considered disqualifying for Mr. Mnuchin.
Let me review just a few of the discrepancies.
Mr. Mnuchin placed some investments offshore, in full conformity with the law and not for the purpose of avoiding U.S. taxes. But, my friends have simply asserted that no one uses offshore financial vehicles unless they are trying to avoid U.S. taxes and, therefore, Mr. Mnuchin’s investments disqualified him to serve as Treasury Secretary.
Yet, Secretary Lew, prior to his confirmation, actually made investments in the famous Ugland House in the Cayman Islands, which President Obama described as “outrageous” and “the biggest tax scheme in the world.” My Democrat colleagues knew this, but did not care, and happily confirmed Secretary Lew with hardly a mention of this matter.
Democrats have argued that Mr. Mnuchin unduly profited from the housing market collapse.
Yet, Secretary Lew, prior to his nomination, ran “proprietary trading” groups at Citigroup, where they invested in a hedge fund that bet heavily on the collapse of the housing market. My Democrat colleagues knew this, but did not care, and happily confirmed Secretary Lew without really ever acknowledging this part of his record.
Democrats claim that Mr. Mnuchin unfairly foreclosed on homeowners, despite evidence to the contrary.
Yet, Secretary Lew, prior to being nominated, ran a Citigroup division that was, according to arbitration panels at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and later the SEC, “defrauding investors.” And, when asked about the toxic securities sold by his Citigroup unit, Secretary Lew’s answers varied between not remembering any specific securities to claiming he somehow wasn’t involved in the investment decisions made at the Citigroup unit he oversaw.
My Democrat colleagues knew this, but did not care, and happily confirmed Secretary Lew without anything resembling full and complete answers to these questions.
Democrats claim, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that Mr. Mnuchin ran a “robo-signing” foreclosure machine.
Yet, Citigroup, while Jack Lew was in senior management, sliced and diced mortgages, and was alleged to have “robo-signed” mortgage documents. Democrats knew this, but did not care, and happily confirmed Secretary Lew without ever really asking him about these issues.
I can go on and on here, Mr. President. There are many other issues that my colleagues were willing to overlook – if not outright ignore – with regard to Secretary Lew that have resulted in hyperbolic attacks on Mr. Mnuchin.
Mr. President, I’d like to remind my colleagues that, despite the numerous concerns that I and others had about Secretary Lew, and the many significant disagreements that I had with President Obama’s agenda, I voted in favor of Secretary Lew’s confirmation.
On this very floor, I stated the following: “I have always believed that the President—any President, regardless of party—is owed a certain degree of deference when choosing people to work in his Administration. Therefore, though I, personally, would have chosen a different person for this position, I intend to vote in favor of Mr. Lew’s confirmation.”
I wasn’t alone. Many other Republicans also voted to confirm Secretary Lew despite serious reservations.
My, how times have changed!
As is typically the case, when a group of Senators is unable to make a believable case against a nominee, they tend to just raise every possible issue and hope something gains traction. When, in the end, nothing works, they cling to whatever allegation came last and hope that it’s enough to change the outcome.
That’s why, over the past couple weeks or so, we’ve heard an awful lot about “robo-signing.”
Here’s the basic rundown of what has happened on this issue: My friends on the other side got an answer to a poorly and vaguely worded question that was not the answer they wanted to receive. The answer from Mr. Mnuchin, that OneWest bank did not engage in “robo-signing” under his leadership, was truthful and defensible, but it didn’t conform to the Democratic talking points drafted for this nominee.
Since that time, Senate Democrats have repeatedly referenced news stories that purportedly prove that, not only did Mr. Mnuchin run a bank that engaged in the nefarious, yet not well-defined, practice of “robo-signing” mortgage documents, he lied about it in his answers to the committee.
However, I would urge my colleagues – on both sides – to actually look at the supposed evidence from those news articles. Put simply, to say that my Democrat friends are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill would be an insult to moles everywhere. There is no molehill to be found here.
To make the case that Mr. Mnuchin was untruthful in his answers, the articles rely on quotes mined from a single deposition of a OneWest employee. Quoted out of context, the employee seems to have said that she rapidly signed several hundred foreclosure-related documents a week without fully verifying their accuracy.
That is the supposed smoking gun on the Mnuchin “robo-signing” question.
However, if you read the full deposition, the employee makes it absolutely clear that she was not the employee responsible for verifying the accuracy or validity of everything in the documents. She was part of a process that included several steps and multiple employees to verify the accuracy of different parts of the documents.
You don’t even have to dig for this explanation, Mr. President. It’s not a matter of any interpretation. That explanation, in plain English, is right there in the deposition my colleagues and the news articles have been using as “evidence” that Mr. Mnuchin lied to the Finance Committee.
Nothing – not a single thing – in the deposition quoted in those news articles could be considered evidence of “robo-signing” on the part of OneWest Bank.
While I can understand that my colleagues don’t like seeing or hearing anything that contradicts their preconceived notions, particularly when it comes in the form of an answer to one of their questions, that is no basis or justification to make wild and brazen accusations that a nominee has been lying.
And, make no mistake, Mr. President, that is precisely what they’re doing with Mr. Mnuchin.
On a related note, it is really amazing to me that my friends on the other side are now feigning outrage over alleged lack of responsiveness to their questions after having gone through the last eight years with Treasury Secretaries who routinely ignored questions and requests for briefings posed by myself and a number of my other Senate colleagues.
But, I digress.
I certainly sympathize with the many people who suffered through the foreclosure crisis, and with Democrats in Congress who were and continue to be frustrated that Treasury officials in the Obama Administration failed to construct effective homeowner relief programs, despite having made numerous promises to do so.
However, given that frustration, it is odd to me that my colleagues remain so opposed to Mr. Mnuchin’s nomination when he was very much engaged in the practice of making mortgage modifications work during his time as the head of OneWest Bank. Moreover, Mr. Mnuchin worked diligently with regulators and others to clean up the system under which foreclosure documents were being processed.
And, Mr. President, you don’t have to take my word for it, you can examine the numerous letters of support we’ve received from a range of people and organizations, from community groups to community bankers, which attest to Mr. Mnuchin’s success in turning a bank that was plagued by toxic loans and numerous processing errors into a viable financial services firm that provides jobs and support to communities.
Along the way, Mr. Mnuchin’s company significantly outperformed rivals in the industry in terms of offering loan modifications to help KEEP Americans facing foreclosure in their homes. Mr. Mnuchin has acknowledged that his efforts were not without errors and that he genuinely regrets any mistakes that were made. He’s also made clear that OneWest was committed to providing remediation in order to compensate those who were affected. It should also be noted that in the vast majority of independent evaluations of OneWest’s practices, the bank’s error rates were routinely below the average for the industry, and often zero.
All of this was discussed out in the open during the Finance Committee’s hearing on the Mnuchin nomination. Nothing was hidden, no one was misled.
Unfortunately, rather than focusing on the actual facts surrounding OneWest’s performance under the nominee’s leadership, my friends on the other side opted to try to smear Mr. Mnuchin. In essence, they’ve tried to re-litigate the foreclosure crisis, with Mr. Mnuchin’s company confusingly placed in the crosshairs. This is a company that, according to a letter from Faith Schwartz, former executive director of the Hope Now Alliance, “was committed to avoiding foreclosures where possible.”
As I said, Mr. President, with Mr. Mnuchin, my colleagues are applying a clear double standard for confirming a Treasury Secretary.
For Republican Treasury Secretary nominees, any allegation, no matter how careless or untrustworthy the source, is enough to inspire the Democrats’ outrage and trigger a seemingly endless bout of name-calling.
For Democrat nominees, on the other hand, even proven instances of questionable actions and poor judgement on the part of the nominee fail to even make a blip on their radar screens.
Mr. President, I have spent quite a bit of time in recent weeks decrying the antics of my Democrat colleagues with regard to President Trump’s cabinet nominations. And, frankly, I’m tired of talking about it.
My colleagues are, of course, free to do whatever they think will help them hobble the new administration and score points with their political base, even if it breaks from the longstanding customs and traditions of the Senate and even if it puts our financial stability and the stability of our relations with finance ministers of other countries at greater risk.
However, they should know that these tactics do absolutely nothing to help American families seeking greater opportunities and economic growth.
They don’t help us fix our broken tax code, reform our failing healthcare system, and empower businesses and job creators to grow and expand.
The bottom line is this: Mr. Mnuchin is clearly qualified to serve as Secretary of the United States Treasury.
Some of my colleagues on the side of the aisle have made clear that they intend to vote no on the nomination, and that is their right. However, while each Senator has a right to vote according to his or her own judgment, Senators do a disservice to the country and the Senate as an institution when they concoct stories and antics designed merely to delay a vote for the sake of delay.
Going forward, I hope my colleagues will recognize the problematic precedents they are setting with regard to these nominees and opt to change course.
Mr. President, I intend to vote in favor of confirming Mr. Mnuchin, and I urge all of my colleagues to do the same.
I yield the floor.
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