WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate panel, with no Democrats present, approved President Donald Trump's choice of financier Steven Mnuchin as Treasury secretary.
The approval Wednesday by the Senate Finance Committee came over objections from Democrats who boycotted the vote. They have criticized Mnuchin for his handling of thousands of mortgage foreclosures at failed subprime mortgage lender IndyBank, which Mnuchin took over and renamed OneWest.
Democrats, who are demanding Mnuchin supply the committee with more information, charged that Trump's selection of a former top executive at Goldman Sachs shows that the president is not serious about keeping Wall Street in check.
Republicans said Mnuchin's long tenure in finance is an ample prerequisite for the Treasury job. The nomination must still be approved by the full Senate.
Mnuchin's nomination was approved on a 14-0 vote after the committee voted to suspend the rules that require at least one Democrat be present for votes. The panel also approved the nomination of Georgia GOP Rep. Tom Price to become secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The panel's 12 Democrats had delayed votes on both nominees Tuesday, seeking more financial information from both men. GOP lawmakers, in response, suspended the rules Wednesday in order to advance the nominations to the full Senate.
In a printed statement, Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the panel, said it was deeply troubling that Republicans had chosen to "break the rules in the face of strong evidence of two nominees' serious ethical problems." Wyden said it appeared that Mnuchin had misled the committee on his company's foreclosure practices.
But Mnuchin spokesman Barney Keller said, "Steven Mnuchin has repeatedly and comprehensively responded to all requests by the committee. He is the president's choice to lead the Treasury Department and is well qualified."
Democrats were reacting to a story published Sunday in The Columbus Dispatch. The Ohio newspaper said it had uncovered documents that showed OneWest had used a technique known as "robo-signing" to process documents in home foreclosure cases in Ohio.
Robo-signing is the term used when a mortgage company employee signs hundreds of foreclosures, swearing they have scrutinized the documents as required by law.
In his testimony before the committee, Mnuchin, one of many wealthy business executives Trump has picked for his Cabinet, defended his actions while heading OneWest. He said he had worked hard during the financial crisis to assist homeowners with refinancing so that they could remain in their homes. He told the committee that his bank had extended more than 100,000 loan modifications to borrowers.
But Democrats presented examples of people they said had not been treated fairly, including elderly homeowners and members of the U.S. military.
A liberal group, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said it would continue running television ads in a number of states hard hit by the housing crisis in hopes of pressuring senators to vote against Mnuchin.
Kait Sweeney, press secretary for the group, said that if Mnuchin is allowed to become Treasury secretary "he will change the rules on Wall Street to favor bankers and billionaires at the expense of working families."