FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
January 19, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump's treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, did not necessarily find friendly faces among each and every Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. During Mnuchin's hearing Thursday, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) repeatedly pressed Mnuchin, specifically on the issue of the tax cut that comes with repealing ObamaCare.

Mnuchin did not directly commit to an answer: "I haven't been as involved in the 'repeal and replace,'" he said, when asked who would benefit from the tax cut that would come with repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) also pressed Mnuchin on whether any taxpayer making under $200,000 a year would see even "a dime" of the ObamaCare tax cuts. Mnuchin admitted most of the ObamaCare taxes currently in place are on the wealthy — who would then stand to benefit if they were repealed — but asserted that tax reform "overall" will be scrutinized. Jeva Lange

January 19, 2017

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) held nothing back while grilling President-elect Donald Trump's treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, on Thursday. McCaskill used the entirety of her time to press Mnuchin on the issue of Trump's potential conflicts of interest due to his global business, wondering aloud if Trump would fire the government ethics officer in order to install someone more favorable to his organization's interests.

At one point during the questioning, McCaskill asked: "Do you agree your boss is famous for firing people?"

Mnuchin, cornered, admitted: "Well, he has a show about it."

McCaskill continued, asking Mnuchin, "Isn't it true that a lot of [Trump's] debt is held by foreign interests?" Mnuchin deflected: "I don't know, I've just read it in the papers."

"Do you think you should know that, as someone who runs the committee on foreign investments, if we're talking about the commander-in-chief?" McCaskill pressed.

Mnuchin mostly agreed: "I think you have a valid point," he said. Jeva Lange

January 19, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump's tax plan has been criticized by some analysts for possibly adding "trillions" to the national debt and significantly benefiting high-income households. When pressed on the issue during his Senate confirmation hearing, Trump's treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, seemed to admit that the plan was less than ideal:

"I think, as you know, we had a rather modest campaign staff relative to the other people out there," Mnuchin said. "One of the things I look forward to if I'm confirmed is having access to all the people at the Treasury who are able to model these things." Watch below. Jeva Lange

January 19, 2017

The Senate hearing for President-elect Donald Trump's treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, took a deep dive into the question of whether Mnuchin simply forgot to list on his financial paperwork that he is the director of an investment fund based in the Cayman Islands, as he claims, or whether he was trying to cover up his involvement in tax loopholes, as some of his critics believe.

"The difference between investing in the United States or the Cayman Islands is the possibility of avoiding U.S. tax laws," Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said. "You've made it very clear that you paid your taxes … but the entities that you were helping or that you were making money from, you were helping them avoid U.S. taxes."

Mnuchin repeatedly defended his failure to list himself as the fund director in his initial disclosures by saying the forms are very complicated. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) defended Mnuchin, stepping in to say, "It is a bit ironic and a bit hypocritical that my friends on the other side of the aisle have suddenly found religion on offshore account holding. Evidently, memories are short: At least two of President Obama's nominees who now serve in his Cabinet had Cayman Island holdings."

Watch some of the grilling below. Jeva Lange

January 19, 2017
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

President-elect Donald Trump's treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, defended his controversial record Thursday by slamming the press for "maligning" him and painting him as a villain.

"In the press it has been said that I ran a 'foreclosure machine,'" Mnuchin said. "This is not an accurate description of my role at OneWest Bank. On the contrary, I was committed to loan modification intended to stop foreclosures. I ran a loan modification machine."

Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs partner, faces fierce scrutiny from Democrats with questions focusing on his time at OneWest Bank, which is accused of employing merciless foreclosure tactics during the housing crisis. Mnuchin has also encountered trouble with his financial paperwork, admitting in a revised questionnaire that he is the director of an investment fund based in the Cayman Islands and that he forgot to disclose over $900,000 worth of artwork held by his children.

Watch his full opening statement at CBS News here. Jeva Lange

January 19, 2017

Steven Mnuchin's Senate confirmation hearing for treasury secretary began Thursday with an eruption, when Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) mockingly offered Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) a Valium pill.

"Sen. Wyden, I've got a Valium pill here you might want to take before the second round. Just a suggestion," Roberts said, offering up the medication that is typically used to treat anxiety.

"Just another suggestion, we've got a lot of colleagues waiting, if you could be brief it would be helpful," Wyden shot back.

"Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman. I hope that comment about Valium doesn't set the tone for 2017," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) broke in as Roberts began to speak again. "I like Sen. Roberts, but I can't quite believe he would say that to a distinguished senator from Oregon."

"I said that to the president of the United States!" Roberts shouted back, setting off a flurry of argument in the room. When Roberts got the floor again he apologized for incurring Brown's "wrath."

"We have many colleagues waiting — " Wyden again interrupted.

"Fine Ron!" Roberts said. "I'm done." Jeva Lange

January 19, 2017
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

President-elect Donald Trump's energy secretary nominee Rick Perry and treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin will testify at their Senate confirmation hearings Thursday morning.

A former Texas governor, Perry has previously argued to eliminate the Department of Energy and reportedly was not entirely sure about what the department does when he was offered the position. If confirmed, Perry will largely work to oversee the U.S. nuclear arsenal and is expected to face tough questions today from combative Democrats, the Texas Tribune reports. Yet Perry might slip by mostly unscathed: "There are bigger fish to fry," a Senate Democratic aide told the Tribune.

One such fish could be former Goldman Sachs partner Mnuchin, who will likely face questions interrogating his time at OneWest Bank, which is accused of merciless foreclosure tactics during the housing crisis. Mnuchin has also faced trouble with his financial paperwork, admitting in a revised questionnaire that he is the director of an investment fund based in the Cayman Islands and that he forgot to disclose over $900,000 worth of artwork held by his children, The New York Times reports.

All of the Senate hearings can be watched live on C-SPAN, with Perry's kicking the day off at 9:30 a.m. ET. Jeva Lange

January 18, 2017
Screenshot/C-SPAN

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) comically illustrated the overreach of the Environmental Protection Agency during an otherwise turbulent Senate hearing for President-elect Donald Trump's EPA nominee, Scott Pruitt, on Wednesday. "This is a chart of the state of Iowa," Ernst began, showing a nearly entirely red map of her state. "As you can see, with the expanded definition as provided by the EPA, 97 percent of the state of Iowa is now considered Waters of the U.S. So if you are in an area like mine, in southwest Iowa here, I live in a Water of the U.S."

It wasn't the only thing Ernst took issue with. In fact, she has some serious concerns about ... well, puddles.

"The Obama EPA told the public that they will not regulate puddles," Ernst went on. "They will not regulate puddles. However, we learned that the Corps [of Engineers] is already regulating puddles by claiming that a puddle in a gravel parking lot is a 'degraded wetland.' A degraded wetland."

But wait, there's more: "The Obama EPA also told farmers not to worry about being regulated because ordinary farming activities have a statutory exemption. We learned that the Corps of Engineers and the Department of Justice have decided that plowing is not an ordinary farming activity. Explain that to my dear deceased grandfather and my father," Ernst said.

And that's not even to mention "small mountain ranges," which are certainly small and probably not mountains. Watch the entire clip at C-SPAN here. Jeva Lange

See More Speed Reads