The United States Senate on Monday evening confirmed Steven Mnuchin as Secretary of the Treasury with a majority of votes; the final vote count was 53-47. Mnuchin, a former Goldnman Sachs Executive and Donald Trump's biggest fundraiser during his campaign, was a controversial pick for the Treasury position.
Votes for Mnuchin's confirmation fell along party lines, with only one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voting "yes" to Mnuchin's confirmation. Indeed, according to the New York Times, Senate Democrats actually boycotted Mnuchin's confirmation at the committee level, but Senate Republicans "broke with protocol" and brought the confirmation vote to the full Senate floor.
Mnuchin's nomination for Secretary of Treasury was controversial for several reasons. Mnuchin is often characterized as being overly cozy with Wall Street due to his banking background. He is particularly criticized for formerly working with OneWest bank, which was involved in a variety of unjust home foreclosure incidents during the financial crisis in 2008.
During his confirmation hearing, Mnuchin also received criticism for failing to disclose 100 million dollars worth of assets to the Senate Finance Committee, as well as for not sharing that he served as the director of an investment fund located in the Cayman Islands, a known tax haven.
Prior to the vote on Mnuchin's confirmation, Senate Democrats reflected on the concerns they had expressed during committee hearings. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey shared his thoughts, saying
“The American people cannot afford to suffer through another financial crisis, and can’t afford to have a master Wall Street manipulator put in the position that we should be relying on to protect us from that kind of financial manipulation."
However, on the flip side, Senate Republicans expressed their satisfaction with Mnuchin's confirmation and his perceived qualifications for the role. Senator Orrin Hatch, the Senate Finance Committee Chairman, captured this sentiment with his words praising Mnuchin during the confirmation process, saying,
"Mr. Mnuchin has 30 years of experience working in a variety of capacities in the financial sector...He 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."
Regardless of whether or not one approves of Mnuchin's confirmation, the newly-minted Treasury Secretary certainly has his work cut out for him when it comes to implementing the Trump administration's ideas for taxation and regulation changes. He also has several important upcoming deadlines and events, including deadlines for decisions on whether to raise United States' national debt limit and on whether to label China as a "currency manipulator," among others. Furthermore, he also faces an impending Group of 20 Summit with world leaders.
Mnuchin will play a very significant role in the U.S. and abroad as Secretary of the Treasury; hopefully he will be able to prove his critics wrong and serve the United States well in this capacity.