Trump’s economic team taking shape

Trump’s economic team taking shape
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President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE’s brain trust on economic policy is beginning to take shape, with Steven Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross set to be nominated for two high-profile positions in his Cabinet.

Both men worked on the Trump campaign and have wide-ranging experience in the financial industry, but are new to government. If confirmed, they will be tasked with pursuing an ambitious agenda of reforming the tax code, investing in infrastructure, renegotiating trade deals and easing financial regulations.

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Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Soaring deficits could put Trump in a corner if there's a recession Paul Ryan moving family to Washington MORE (R-Wis.) said Trump’s economic team will “bring decades of experience across a wide spectrum of industries to their respective roles.”

“I have the utmost confidence that they will serve President-elect Trump and the American people well,” he said.

Mnuchin, the president-elect’s choice for Treasury secretary, was finance director of the Trump campaign. He worked at Goldman Sachs for 17 years before founding the investment firm Dune Capital Management in 2004 and OneWest Bank Group LLC in 2009.

In addition to his background in finance, Mnuchin has experience in the entertainment industry, having financed movies including “Batman v Superman” and “Suicide Squad.”

Mnuchin isn’t the only Goldman Sachs alum set to have clout in the new administration. Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, is a former employee of the investment bank, and Trump is reportedly considering giving an administration job to Goldman’s president, Gary Cohn.

Ross, Trump’s choice for Commerce secretary, is a billionaire investor who made his fortune rebooting failed steel companies before founding a private equity firm, with mixed results. His steel experience fits with Trump’s campaign promise to reinvigorate that industry. During the campaign, Ross served as an economic adviser to Trump.

Trump also announced Tuesday that he plans to nominate Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts to serve as deputy Commerce secretary.

Democrats immediately blasted the selections for their ties to the financial industry.

Progressive Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Keystone XL Pipeline gets nod from Nebraska Supreme Court MORE (Mass.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownBank watchdogs approve rule to loosen ban on risky Wall Street trades Dayton mayor assigned extra security following verbal spat with Trump The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape MORE (Ohio) accused Trump of breaking his pledge to rid Washington of corporate influence.

Mnuchin’s nomination “should send shivers down the spine of every American who got hit hard by the financial crisis,” said Warren, citing his record at Goldman Sachs. “Trump has no intention of draining the swamp and every intention of running Washington to benefit himself and his rich buddies.”

Brown, the Senate Banking Committee’s ranking Democrat, said Mnuchin’s nomination “isn’t draining the swamp — it’s stocking it with alligators.”

Republicans praised the picks, hailing the private sector experience they would bring to the government.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (R-Utah), whose committee will be tasked with vetting Mnuchin’s nomination, said the Treasury pick has a “singular and storied pedigree.”

“Given the depth and breadth of Steven’s private sector experience, he will play a pivotal role in bicameral efforts to revamp the nation’s outdated tax code to create a healthier economic environment for American businesses and families here at home,” he said.

Given Mnuchin’s Wall Street background, the financial industry is generally bullish about his nomination.

Tim Pawlenty, head of the Financial Services Roundtable, hailed him as “a seasoned and results-oriented leader who is really smart, interested in public policy, and understands the urgent need to boost economic growth and opportunity.”

But advocates in Washington working on banking issues also say Mnuchin has a sparse record on policy matters, leaving them somewhat in the dark about his priorities.

“He is unknown. Few comments on banking. Tough to gauge,” said one banking lobbyist.

Mnuchin did get a seal of approval from a predecessor.

Hank Paulson, who once led Goldman Sachs and headed the Treasury Department during the financial crisis, heaped praise on Mnuchin, saying he had the skills necessary to excel at Treasury.

A senior financial industry source said Mnuchin’s lack of policy background makes his views on big banks unclear. But the source added that Mnuchin’s experience leading OneWest, a regional bank, would suggest he is well aware of the issues facing smaller firms.

The source added that Trump’s picks are perfect targets for Democrats and their anti-Wall Street rhetoric.

“He’s filling his bench with Wall Street insiders,” said the source. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just not what he promised his supporters on the campaign trail.”

On tax policy, Mnuchin stressed Wednesday that tax reform will be a top priority for the new administration. He said on CNBC that the administration would enact “the largest tax change since Reagan,” with cuts for businesses and the middle class.

Trump and Republican lawmakers have already said they want to make tax reform a major agenda item next year. Mnuchin’s comments signal that “he’s with that program” as well, said Micah Green, who leads the financial services practice at Steptoe & Johnson.

Ross is a slightly more familiar figure in Washington, having been a former member of the National Association of Manufacturers. That group’s president and CEO, Jay Timmons, praised Ross for having a “firsthand understanding of the challenges manufacturers face to remain globally competitive in today’s economy.”

“To raise wages, put more people to work and out-innovate the rest of the world, manufacturers in America need fairer taxes and sane regulations as well as expanded trade and strong trade enforcement,” Timmons said. “We’re encouraged by Mr. Ross’ advocacy on many of these fronts and his extensive business experience.”

Peter Schroeder contributed reporting.