Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On the Nomination of Steven Mnuchin to be Secretary of the Treasury

Today the Senate will confirm the nomination of Steven Mnuchin to be the Secretary of the Treasury.  It is a nomination I simply cannot support.

The Treasury Department plays an essential role in the development of the economic policies that financially secure the United States in world markets, that expand the opportunities available to all Americans, and that help set the stage for a sound and growing economy.  Our country’s economic engine must be one that is accessible to all Americans, not just the wealthy few. Regrettably, while Mr. Mnchuin may have a knowledge of the inner-workings of Wall Street, he seems to know shockingly little of the hardships faced on Main Street.  One need look no further than his role during the height of the housing crisis in foreclosing on tens of thousands of American families.  Reducing these actions to mere administrative matters belies the true struggles of those who don’t boast the personal coffers Mr. Mnuchin enjoys.  I simply cannot accept his explanation of his role in these actions.

We cannot forget the devastation and hardship that the recent financial crisis brought upon our country, its people, its neighborhoods, its small businesses, and its communities.  People lost their homes and their jobs, and our markets crashed.  Many have still have not recovered from those losses.  As Congress worked to find the answers, it became clear that many large investment banks and insurance companies hid the insecurity of their finances from stockholders and from the American people.  While many people lost their life savings, corporate executives received outrageous severance packages.  As the country lurched into a financial downward spiral, Mr. Mnuchin’s company, OneWest, administered aggressive foreclosure tactics that added to the devastation of these families, including veterans.  It was wrong.  Mr. Mnuchin, in his testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, may have tried to convince the American people that his was an innocent role in the crisis.  But given that he could not provide a valid reason for failing to disclose that he was the director of an offshore account worth more than $100 million, domiciled off shore in the Cayman Islands, I just cannot buy what he is selling.  And neither can Vermonters. 

In 2010, Congress worked hard to pass the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  This legislation included a number of financial reforms to change the way financial institutions and banks take on risk, while adding protections for customers of these institutions, and creating a new regulatory council in order to provide more effective oversight of the industry.  President Trump has indicated that he will seek to roll back Dodd-Frank regulations, and Mr. Mnuchin reinforced this pledge in front of the Finance Committee.  Since its inception in 2011, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has received and sent to companies for review upward of 700,000 complaints from consumers across the country, ranging from abuses in debt collection and credit reporting, to student loans.  I worry about the future of the CFPB under President Trump’s administration.  Its value and importance in protecting Americans from predatory practices, like those of OneWest, cannot be overstated.  I cannot support a Secretary who would unravel the reforms we worked hard to enact and that protect the American people from the devastation of runaway corporate greed.

For the last eight years, we have focused, with considerable success, on rebuilding our economy.   The unemployment rate is lower than it was before the financial crisis.  Small businesses are growing.  It is imperative that we continue to make economic progress, and that we find additional ways to help those who have been left behind, without returning to the destructive policies that brought about the crisis in the first place.  I am not convinced that Mr. Mnuchin is the right nominee to lead the Treasury Department and to continue this forward progress.

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