On Monday, February 13, the senate confirmed former Goldman Sachs executive Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary. The 53-47 vote was largely on party lines.
Mnuchin, a billionaire, came under criticism from democrats for his purchase of the failing California bank IndyMac from the FDIC in 2008. Mnuchin, who changed the name of the bank to One West, came under fire for the volume of foreclosures which One West initiated while he was at the helm.
Morevoer, the One West deal was criticized because the FDIC agreed to a loss-sharing arrangement whereby they risked assuming 80% of the bank’s losses. Ultimately, the FDIC lost $12.4 billion on the arrangement, whereas Mnuchin’s group of investors later made $2.3 billion on One West when they sold their stake in 2015, a 148% return on investment.
And while there was nothing illegal about how Mnuchin structured the deal with the FDIC, the significant profits for Mnuchin and his investors raised eyebrows during Mnuchin’s confirmation hearings. House Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) described President Donald Trump’s selection of Mnuchin as “a broken promise” with regard to the President’s campaign slogan of “draining the swamp.”
Utah Republican Orrin Hatch defended Mnuchin’s qualifications and experience. “He [Mnuchin] 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.”
Immediately following the Mnuchin vote, the Senate unanimously confirmed Dr. David Shulkin 100-0 to serve as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Shulkin, an independent, who most recently served as the Undersecretary of Health during the Obama Administration, will now lead the second largest government agency which serves close to 9 million veterans a year.
Moments before the Shulkin vote, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee appealed to his senate colleagues to put politics aside and support Shulkin, saying “Let’s find out if there’s one thing we can agree on.”
We have just experienced a rare moment of consensus in what has become a highly contentious and deeply polarized presidential cabinet confirmation process.
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