Republicans in the Senate Committee on Finance advanced President Trump's nominee for treasury secretary on Wednesday, suspending the committee's rules in response to a boycott by Democratic lawmakers.
The vote by Republicans in the committee was unanimous. They decried the Democrats' decision to boycott the vote initially scheduled on Tuesday as pointless obstructionism.
“We can have our disagreements,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), the chairman of the committee. “To differ, that’s one thing. I can live with that. I’ve differed myself from time to time. But I’ve always shown up.”
Lawmakers had questioned the nominee, Steven T. Mnuchin, about foreclosures conducted by his former bank, OneWest. OneWest employees have alleged in federal court that the bank had mishandled paperwork on thousands of homes, which could have resulted in eviction for some borrowers.
Sen. Dean Heller, the Republican from Nevada, noted that his state was among the most severely affected by the housing crisis, during the hearing on Mnuchin's confirmation last month. Heller asked Mnuchin, a former banker at Goldman Sachs, for detailed information about how OneWest — the bank formerly known as IndyMac that Mnuchin purchased from the federal government in 2009 — had handled its loans in Nevada.
“We led the country in bankruptcies, foreclosures and unemployment, so you can imagine that we’re a little sensitive to who becomes the next treasury secretary,” Heller told Mnuchin, who had been dubbed “the Foreclosure King” by his critics during the crisis.
The following week, a report from the Columbus Dispatch described cases in Ohio in which judges had dismissed foreclosure proceedings brought by OneWest because of inaccurate paperwork.
While documents in foreclosure proceedings are supposed to be read carefully by bank officials to ensure they are correct, banks often asked employees to sign hundreds of such papers a week — a practice known as “robo-signing.” The Dispatch reported that one employee who had signed papers foreclosing on Ohio homeowners testified that she regularly signed 750 foreclosure documents a week.
In his initial written testimony to the committee, however, Mnuchin stated that OneWest did not engage in robo-signing. Later, Mnuchin submitted an amended response claiming that OneWest filed erroneous paperwork on only a small number of borrowers who were properly remediated, Bloomberg reported.
On Wednesday, both Heller and Sen. Rob Portman, the Republican from Ohio, voted to approve Mnuchin's nomination in committee.
“Mnuchin committed to working with me to reform our broken tax code and crack down on unfair imports, and I look forward to working with him to accomplish those goals,” Portman said in a statement Wednesday.
Democrats said concerns about the truthfulness of Mnuchin's statements necessitated a delay.
“Mnuchin profited off of kicking people out of their homes and then gave false testimony about his bank's abusive practices,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in a statement.
Democrats also boycotted a vote on the nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-Tex.) for secretary of health and human services. The full Senate will now consider both men for a final vote on their confirmations.
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