(Bloomberg) — Steven Mnuchin was confirmed on Monday as U.S. Treasury secretary, filling the role of chief spokesman for the dollar and steward for the Trump administration’s economic priorities.
The former Goldman Sachs banker won in a 53-47 Senate vote in which only one Democrat broke ranks and supported Mnuchin. He was sworn in Monday night by Vice President Mike Pence at the White House.
All Republicans who voted supported Mnuchin. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was the only Democrat or independent who crossed party lines to vote for confirmation.
After several delays in the Senate vetting process, Mnuchin is expected to push ahead quickly with top administration goals to dismantle financial regulations and slash taxes. Almost immediately, he’ll be immersed in preparing for the expiration of the debt limit suspension and his first meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors in Germany, both coming up next month.
Mnuchin will play a leading role should President Donald Trump start any economic confrontations — with China, for example — as the new administration seeks a more balanced approach with countries that run large trade surpluses with the U.S. While he pledged on the campaign trail to designate China a currency manipulator, Trump has since backpedaled on those remarks and Mnuchin has indicated such a label can only be applied if warranted.
“Our nation’s financial system is truly in great hands with him,” Trump said at the swearing in ceremony. “We are going to have no problem.”
Mnuchin has already sent signals on America’s long-held dollar policy, telling the Senate a strong dollar is important over the long term and that it’s currently “very, very strong.”
As Treasury secretary, Mnuchin will oversee the Internal Revenue Service. As the head of the IRS, Mnuchin will have a major role in managing Affordable Care Act-related tax programs, such as the premium tax credit program, and in shaping any efforts to repeal, repair or replace the ACA. He will also serve as a board member for many major federal government sponsored enterprises and trust funds, such as the funds that back Social Security, Medicare and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
During his confirmation hearing, Democrats forced Mnuchin to defend his record running OneWest Bank, a mortgage lender accused of shoddy foreclosure practices during the financial crisis and which he later sold for a profit. He also faced questions about using a Cayman Islands entity to avoid paying taxes, an accusation he denied.
The 54-year-old former Goldman Sachs executive and Hollywood financier has no previous government experience. He led Trump’s fundraising efforts during the campaign. Trump and Republicans in Congress are counting on his 17 years of experience at Goldman Sachs and six years as a regional banker to unlock economic growth.
“At Goldman Sachs, I had tremendous experience in both the financial markets and in technology — I think both of those are very important things and expertise for a Treasury secretary to have,” Mnuchin said during his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing. “I’ve been in the investment business and, more importantly, I’ve been a regional banker” who has lent money and has trading experience.
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