Rachel McCleery (202) 224-4515
Wyden Speaks on Senate Floor in Opposition of Steven Mnuchin’s Nomination to Lead the Treasury Department
As Prepared for Delivery
WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., delivered a statement on the Senate floor tonight in opposition of Steven T. Mnuchin’s nomination to be the Secretary of the Treasury.
“In just a few minutes, this body will vote to confirm as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the former head of one of the most notorious banks out there when it comes to foreclosures,” Wyden said.
“I do not expect to see eye-to-eye on every issue with every Treasury Secretary. I do expect to have confidence that the Treasury Secretary will work on behalf of all Americans -- not just the most fortunate and powerful.”
“Mr. Mnuchin is yet another Trump nominee who has the ethics alarm bells sounding. He appears to be withholding information requested by members of this body. He misled the Finance Committee and the public about his bank’s foreclosure tactics. The Mnuchin Rule, the first promise he made on policy as a nominee for Treasury Secretary, has already been broken. I do not believe this is the person who should lead the Treasury Department.”
Wyden’s full remarks can be found below:
There are communities across the country that are still waiting for the recovery from the Great Recession to show up. In many of those towns and cities, storefronts remain boarded up, factories shuttered, and in what could be the most lasting scar of the crisis, homes foreclosed. A lot of people in those communities cast their votes in November based on the Trump message that change was coming.
Heads must be spinning tonight at the news from the Senate. In just a few minutes, this body will vote to confirm as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the former head of one of the most notorious banks out there when it comes to foreclosures. That’s who the president chose as his Treasury Secretary. Mr. Mnuchin turned the bank he bought into a cash cow, and kicking people out of their homes was its business model.
I have supported nominees for this position from both parties. I voted for Paul O’Neill, John Snow and Hank Paulson, who served under President George W. Bush.
I do not expect to see eye-to-eye on every issue with every Treasury Secretary. I do expect to have confidence that the Treasury Secretary will work on behalf of all Americans -- not just the most fortunate and powerful. After considering Mr. Mnuchin’s background and qualifications, I do not believe he would be that kind of Treasury Secretary.
In Mr. Mnuchin’s responses to questions from members of the Finance Committee, he denied that his bank, OneWest, engaged in a practice known as “robo-signing.” All the evidence says that is dead wrong. In fact, a OneWest vice president who worked under Mr. Mnuchin, Erica Johnson-Seck, admitted under oath that she ran an office that churned out roughly 6,000 sets of foreclosure documents a week. She said she personally signed more than 750 foreclosure documents a week without reading them, and there was no notary present during the process -- a violation of the law. When asked how much time she spent executing each foreclosure document, Ms. Johnson-Seck replied “I changed my signature considerably. It’s just an E now. So not more than 30 seconds.”
On the eve of the committee markup for Mr. Mnuchin’s nomination, a story broke in the Columbus Dispatch that found documented examples of robo-signing in Ohio. Now on the eve of Mr. Mnuchin’s confirmation vote in the Senate, another story has broken. This time it’s in the state of Washington. More evidence of robo-signing directly contradicting what Mr. Mnuchin told the Finance Committee and the public.
Mr. Mnuchin also withheld foreclosure data requested by two Democratic members of the committee, Senators Brown and Casey, but he appears to have given similar information to Senator Heller, one of the committee’s Republican members. That’s on top of 100 million dollars’ worth of property and more than a dozen positions with various business entities missing from his disclosures to the committee. If not for the work of the committee’s minority investigations team, I do not believe any of that information would have come to light.
Now I’ll turn from missing disclosures and misleading testimony to a broken promise. The day after news of Mr. Mnuchin’s nomination was leaked, he appeared on television and debuted a pledge pertaining to tax policy, a major part of the job of Treasury Secretary. I’ve come to call it the Mnuchin Rule. And I’ll quote Mr. Mnuchin directly with respect to what he said.
He said, “Any reductions we have in upper income taxes would be offset by less deductions, so there would be no absolute tax cut for the upper class...”
I’ll repeat the last part: “...no absolute tax cut for the upper class...”
When I first called this the Mnuchin Rule during the Finance Committee’s hearing on his nomination, Mr. Mnuchin said he took it as a great compliment, comparing it to the Volcker Rule and the Buffett Rule. Well, you’d think that a guy who proudly embraced having a rule named after himself would stick to it.
But colleagues, the Mnuchin Rule didn’t last long before it was abandoned. The very first act of the 115th Congress and a unified Republican government, repealing the Affordable Care Act, would shatter the Mnuchin rule.
Then it’s set to take another hit later this year, with the majority working on plans to fast-track a second, even bigger tax break for the wealthy and corporations. The Trump plan, in fact, would hit millions of middle-income families with tax increases by wiping out key personal exemptions and eliminating head of household filing status.
The fact is the tax code today is a tale of two systems. For the firefighter in Eugene or the retail worker in Medford, your taxes come straight out of each and every paycheck. The rules are compulsory and strict. There are no special tax dodges or loopholes. You can’t hide your pay in a Cayman Island account.
The rules are different for the powerful and well-connected. Armies of lawyers and accountants specialize in shrinking tax bills. With the right advice, the most fortunate individuals and corporations in this country can decide how much tax to pay and when to pay it.
In short, the tax system today punishes working Americans because it treats them differently than it treats the most fortunate. The administration and the majority in Congress hasn’t shown any interest in fixing it. The Mnuchin Rule didn’t hold up. In fact, the early proposals would only make the rotten unfairness at the heart of our tax code worse.
Mr. Mnuchin is yet another Trump nominee who has the ethics alarm bells sounding. He appears to be withholding information requested by members of this body. He misled the Finance Committee and the public about his bank’s foreclosure tactics. The Mnuchin Rule, the first promise he made on policy as a nominee for Treasury Secretary, has already been broken. I do not believe this is the person who should lead the Treasury Department.
I urge my colleagues to oppose his nomination and I yield the floor.
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