Senate Gears Up For Partisan Vote on Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary

Leigh Ann Caldwell
Steven Mnuchin, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's reported choice for U.S. Treasury secretary, speaks to members of the news media upon his arrival at Trump Tower in New York, November 30, 2016.
Mike Segar | Reuters

The Senate Monday will vote on the confirmation of President Donald Trump's pick to head the Treasury Department, marking the start of what will be a third straight week of a highly partisan process filled with late nights and political theatrics.

The confirmation vote on Steven Mnuchin Monday night is expected to once again break down along party lines, with Democrats criticizing him as a Wall Street friendly banker who breaks with Trump's promise to stand for American workers.

The former Goldman Sachs employee who also helmed One West bank, a bank that was embroiled in the foreclosure crisis, was Trump's finance director during the his presidential campaign.

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"Mr. Mnuchin's entire career can be effectively summarized in one line: privatizing profits and socializing losses," said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. "From his days at Goldman Sachs on the front lines of developing the very products that brought our economy to its knees, to his reign as Chairman of OneWest Bank foreclosing on tens of thousands of homeowners throughout the country, Mr Mnuchin has exploited this nation's financial turmoil to pad his own bank account at the expense of hardworking American families."

Opposing his nomination, Democrats boycotted a vote on his confirmation in a Senate committee and have demanded that the vote before the full Senate be delayed as long as possible. Mnuchin would be just the tenth Trump cabinet nominee confirmed in more than three weeks.

Because Democrats have only 48 senators, including two independents, they have no ability to block any of Trump's cabinet nominees without the support of Republicans. So they have attempted to make the process as painful and slow as possible for the nominees they oppose.

Last week the Senate held two overnight sessions opposing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. And the tally of those votes, along with that of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, was split along party lines. All Democrats voted against the three cabinet officials while all Republicans voted for them, making this the most polarizing and unpopular cabinet in modern times.

Republicans are complaining about the pace of the confirmation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters "this is the slowest time for a new cabinet to be up and running since George Washington."

Democrats have felt emboldened since the Women's Marches that drew hundreds of thousands of people around the country to the streets to protest Trump. And they received record numbers of phone calls, emails and letters opposing Trump's nominees, especially DeVos.

Passions on both sides boiled over last week after Senate Republicans invoked a rarely used rule to cut Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts out of the debate over Sessions for "impugning" his character.

But not all nominees are controversial. The Senate is expected to also vote Monday on David Shulkin to be Veterans Affairs secretary and then Tuesday on Linda McMahon's nomination as Small Business Administrator. Neither of those nominations have generated substantial opposition.