Donald Trump’s pick for US treasury secretary has been approved by the Senate Finance Committee in a vote that divided strictly along party lines.
Mnuchin’s nomination was beset by attacks from Democrats and centred on the foreclosure record of OneWest, a bank where Mnuchin acted as CEO. The Democratic senator, Elizabeth Warren, accused Mnuchin of lying about his time with OneWest and suggested he had not done enough to protect thousands of homeowners from unnecessary foreclosure.
"If Wall Street threatens to blow up the economy again, does anyone seriously expect Mr. Mnuchin to get tough with his old buddies and tell them to knock it off?" Warren said.
Republican senators argued that Mnuchin’s private sector record and understanding of the financial system showed he was qualified for the role.
"Objectively speaking, I don’t believe anyone can reasonably argue that Mr. Mnuchin is unqualified for the position," Republican Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, said before the hearing.
The new treasury secretary is widely understood to be considering another Goldman Sachs veteran, Jim Donovan, as his deputy at the Treasury. Justin Muzinich, formerly of JP Morgan, is likely to take up a senior role within the new Treasury team.
Jasper Lawler, senior market analyst at London Capital Group, said: “Investors are pricing in the benefits of a Goldman Sachs-led Treasury Department.”
“Donald Trump’s agenda of financial deregulation will likely have another supporter in the form Mnuchin. Mnuchin and Gary Cohn will be a more ‘internationalist’ influence on Trump, potentially putting a lid the President’s penchant for currency wars and trade tariffs.”
Another Goldman alumnus, Gary Colne, has been heading up the President’s National Economic Council and leading on the review of the Dodd-Frank Act.
Mnuchin spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs, rising to become partner, he left the bank in 2002, subsequently joining the hedge fund ESL Investments as a vice-chairman.
He has been a major backer of Hollywood films, including Avatar, American Sniper, and most recently, the Lego Batman Movie. Mnuchin joined Trump’s presidential campaign as finance chairman in May last year.