After a career spent basically making it impossible that he would ever hold a government job, Steven Mnuchin entered the Dirksen Office Building earlier today for his confirmation hearing to become the next Secretary of The United States Treasury Department.
It was a show that some in attendance clearly did not want to see - especially Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch who acted like the whole thing was community theater being performed on his lawn without his permission and appeared to be under the impression that Mnuchin was the second coming of Alexander Hamilton and perhaps his own biological son - and Mnuchin was grilled on a variety of topics by members of both parties. In fairness to the Zelig of bad moments in modern financial history, Mnuchin was unflinching (if you don't count his face and some of his answers) throughout the hearing and made it clear that he is a fiscal moderate who may or may not have benefited enormously from the mortgage crisis by running a foreclosure machine backed up by Treasury Department loans.
So yeah, it was exhausting.
Republicans spent their time essentially asking Mnuchin to gut the IRS, a move that they almost uniformly saw as being a boon to poor people and small businesses. On the other hand, Mnuchin was lambasted by Senate Democrats who wanted real answers on his time running OneWest Bank and had real concerns with the Cayman Islands-based investment fund he set up years ago and plum forgot to disclose until today and the $95 million worth of real estate that he also neglected to remember on his financial disclosure.
But on the subject of policy, Mnuchin was a cogent respondent offering answers that were obtuse enough to be palatable to both sides of the room. He said he was open to raising the debt ceiling and wouldn't advocate giving tax cuts to his fellow one percenters. He said that he is down with a strong dollar and likes sanctions, and he even said that he was open to "a 21st Century Glass Steagall."
There was something in there for everybody.
Take for instance, his stance on the Volcker Rule. Mnuchin told the committee that he supports the rule but does have concerns that it restricts liquidity, an answer akin to saying that he loves ice cream but is afraid it might contain sugar. He also seemed to indicate that he is in no rush to push recap and release on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac but does advocate serious bipartisan reform of the GSEs and wouldn't rule out privatization. His comments sent stock in both Fannie and Freddie into freefall, which was probably of no real concern to him anyway considering that he claimed he is no longer invested in John Paulson's GSE-focused fund.
The five-and-a-half hearing inevitably devolved into a miasma of low-grade partisan rancor and Mnuchin became increasingly frayed by the confrontational tones taken by Senators like Sherrod Brown and Claire McCaskill, but it became clear towards the merciful end of the hearing that Mnuchin will likely sail through to confirmation. In fact, nothing can really stop him it seems. Barring revelations of an honest-to-god felony he committed in recent years, Steve Mnuchin cannot be stopped.
Like we've said before. Steve Mnuchin is a warlock.