Five things to watch for in Mnuchin hearing

Five things to watch for in Mnuchin hearing
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The confirmation hearing on Thursday for Steven Mnuchin, President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE’s nominee for Treasury secretary, is expected to be divisive and fiery. 

Democrats and liberal advocacy groups have zeroed in on Mnuchin’s career at Goldman Sachs and OneWest Bank, where he oversaw more than 36,000 foreclosures.

Mnuchin will testify before the Senate Finance Committee, where he’ll likely face questions on his wealth, tax reform, housing, trade and financial regulation, among other topics.


Here are five things to watch for. 

Will any Republicans oppose Mnuchin?

Republicans have played down concerns about Mnuchin’s record at OneWest, insisting he followed the law. They have broadly praised his business experience as being an asset for the Trump administration.

OneWest, which Mnuchin ran from 2009 to 2015, was investigated by the California attorney general’s office in 2013 for violating state foreclosure laws. The bank is also the subject of several complaints that it violated federal fair housing and anti-discrimination laws. 

Mnuchin will address the foreclosure issue at the start of the hearing.

“Since I was first nominated to serve as Treasury Secretary, I have been maligned as taking advantage of others’ hardships in order to earn a buck,” Mnuchin will say, according to prepared remarks. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

While most Republicans appear ready to back Mnuchin, one GOP senator could waver: Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Democrat Jacky Rosen becomes 22nd senator to back bipartisan infrastructure deal 9 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022 MORE (Nev.). 


Heller, a Finance Committee member, is up for reelection in 2018 in a state won by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty Attorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation MORE in the presidential election. Nevada was also devastated by foreclosures during the housing crisis, making Mnuchin’s record at OneWest a sensitive issue. 

Progressive political groups have targeted Heller and other GOP colleagues with ads urging them to oppose Mnuchin. 

Heller told The Hill this month that despite his “very positive” conversation with Mnuchin, he still has reservations about supporting him.

"I looked at him eye-to-eye and asked him what he was going to do about the housing issues, and we'll wait until we get through the hearings to come to a conclusion,” Heller said.

If all Finance Committee Democrats oppose Mnuchin, they’d still need to peel off Heller and another Republican to prevent his nomination from moving forward with a positive recommendation.

How much daylight is there between Trump and Mnuchin?

Mnuchin has kept a low profile since his nomination, as Cabinet nominees typically do. His lack of government and policymaking experience means little is known about his positions on the various financial issues he’ll oversee as Treasury secretary.

Several of Trump’s Cabinet picks have distanced themselves from some of the president-elect’s stated policies, while others have tried to moderate or explain Trump’s views. Wall Street will be watching to see how closely Mnuchin sticks to Trump’s platform.

Where does he stand on tax reform?

Tax reform is a high priority for Republicans this year, but tension over border adjustment, a proposal that waives taxes on exports and boosts them on imports, is already becoming a point of contention.

House Republicans included border adjustment in their tax reform blueprint, but Trump has criticized the idea as overly complicated.

Asked about tax reform, AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book Paul Ryan says it's 'really clear' Biden won election: 'It was not rigged. It was not stolen' Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms MORE (R-Wis.), countered that, “we’re very confident we’ll get it done.”

Where Mnuchin stands on border adjustability and a host of other issues could have an outsized impact on the tax reform process. 

The Finance Committee has jurisdiction over taxes, and Mnuchin will likely be deeply involved with shaping the legislation as Treasury secretary.

Will Mnuchin become a populist punching bag? 

Mnuchin is far from the first Treasury secretary nominee from either party with Wall Street experience. But Democrats have ripped Trump for staffing his administration with several Goldman Sachs alumni and wealthy business figures after campaigning against corporate elites running government.

Mnuchin made millions through his private sector career in investing, banking and movie producing. He’s never worked in government, spurring Democrats to raise questions about his preparedness and familiarity with the job.

Democrats are putting a target on Mnuchin as they seek to bolster their populist credentials. They’ve already nicknamed him “the foreclosure king” and claimed his lack of government service won’t translate into fighting for middle class Americans. 

Finance Committee Democrats Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Trojan Horse of protectionism Advocates call on top Democrats for 0B in housing investments Democratic senators request probe into Amazon's treatment of pregnant employees MORE (Ohio) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillRepublicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect Giuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri MORE (Mo.) are up for reelection in 2018 in states that went for Trump. How they approach their questioning of Mnuchin will be something to watch.  

Does he weigh in on Dodd-Frank?

Though the Senate Banking Committee has jurisdiction over the issues covered by the Dodd-Frank Act, some Senate Finance members are likely to press Mnuchin on the sweeping financial regulation law passed in 2010.


Republicans have been planning a Dodd-Frank overhaul for more than a year and are poised to make major changes to the law, even if it’s piece by piece.

Brown, the top Democrat on the Banking Committee, sent Mnuchin a letter in December with several questions on banking and housing regulation that he says Mnuchin didn’t answer. Brown also told reporters Tuesday that he expects such questions to be asked by other senators.

Mnuchin’s comments on Dodd-Frank could reveal where the Trump administration wants to start when it comes to changing Dodd-Frank. Trump shed little light during the campaign on how he’d approach the law, so Mnuchin could be the first look into the administration's priorities.