Sen. Warren blasts Treasury Sec. Mnuchin for 'Orwellian' double-speak on Glass-Steagall

Key Points
  • Mnuchin said "it is a complicated question" when asked what a 21st-century Glass-Steagall Act means
  • "This is like something straight out of George Orwell," Warren fumed.
  • Mnuchin said breaking up the banks "would be a huge mistake."
Elizabeth Warren and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin spar over Glass-Steagall

He's in favor of Glass-Steagall. Just not that Glass-Steagall.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was lambasted Thursday by Sen. Elizabeth Warren for saying that he supported a "21st-century Glass-Steagall" Act, but opposed breaking up banks' commercial and investment banking functions.

"This is bizarre!" fumed Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, at Mnuchin during a hearing on Capitol Hill that quickly turned contentious when it was her turn to question the Treasury chief.

"Tell me what 21st-century Glass-Steagall means if it doesn't mean breaking apart banks?" asked Warren. She noted, repeatedly, that the original Glass-Steagall Act passed into law in 1933 and repealed in 1999 broke commercial banks apart from investment banks.

Mnuchin tried to dodge Warren on that issue, saying, "It is a complicated question."

"I'll bet," Warren snapped.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-MA
Ryan McBride | AFP | Getty Images

Mnuchin continued, saying that "the simple answer, which we don't support, is breaking up banks from investment banks."

"We think it would be a huge mistake," he said.

Warren suggested that Mnuchin, who offered to explain his views to her in a private meeting, was engaging in double-speak, particularly since Mnuchin, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and the Republican Party platform had called for a 21st-century version of Glass-Steagall.

"This is like something straight out of George Orwell," Warren said.

Watch: Warren responds to Mnuchin's testimony

Sen. Warren: Mnuchin reversed stance on Glass–Steagall '180 degrees'