Wall Street banker Mnuchin sworn in as US Treasury chief

2017-02-14 09:25
(Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP)

(Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP)

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Washington - The US Senate on Monday confirmed Wall Street banker Steven Mnuchin to be the next secretary of the US Treasury, overcoming fierce Democratic objection of yet another nominee to President Donald Trump's cabinet.

Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive, fills a crucial position in Trump's economic team. The new president has criticised opponents for delaying his nominees.

He was promptly sworn in at the White House by Vice President Mike Pence, in a ceremony also attended by Trump and Mnuchin's fiancee, Louise Linton, a Scottish actress.

Trump praised his new Treasury chief as a "financial legend with a track record of success."

Democrats have put up roadblocks to nearly all of Trump's cabinet picks to date, a sign of the political rancor infusing a confirmation process that until recent years exhibited far more bipartisanship.

Republicans, who maintain a majority in the Senate, have managed to hold a united front and confirm each nominee who has come to the floor for a vote.

Senators confirmed Mnuchin, an investment banker and Hollywood financier who also served as finance chairman of Trump's presidential campaign, on a party line vote of 53 to 48. Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the only crossover vote.

Mnuchin takes over a US agency with power over taxation, bank regulation, sovereign debt, and policies to combat corruption and terrorism finance.

'Foreclosure machine'

During his confirmation hearing, Mnuchin fended off queries about his previously undisclosed offshore investment firms and real estate holdings, and defended his bank's foreclosure practices despite being accused by Democrats of acting as "a foreclosure machine."

Democrats sought to paint Mnuchin, 54, as the embodiment of many of the things Trump railed against in his campaign, including Mnuchin's lengthy stint at investment bank Goldman Sachs and OneWest, the bank he co-founded that has been accused of profiting from the 2008 housing crisis.

"Mr Mnuchin's business record tells us he was directly engaged in the predatory practices that led to our financial recession and destroyed the life savings of countless American working families," number two Senate Democrat Dick Durbin said in a statement.

Senator Robert Menendez said Mnuchin "was part of the cadre of corporate raiders that brought our economy to its knees."

Critics such as Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, have accused OneWest of generating profits through improper and aggressive foreclosures.

The Treasury Department in 2011 found that OneWest used "unsafe or unsound" practices in mortgage servicing and foreclosure proceedings.

Despite the ferocious criticism of Mnuchin and other nominees by angry Democrats, the Senate came together and voted unanimously to confirm David Shulkin as the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said Shulkin would be sworn in at 15:00 on Tuesday at the White House.

Shulkin was nominated by then-president Barack Obama in 2015 to serve as undersecretary for health at the VA.

Trump "has selected two well-qualified candidates to lead the charge on strengthening our economy and providing veterans with more of the care they deserve," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Read more on:    donald trump  |  us

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