Transition lens-wearing Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin ended his day of testimony in Congress today with a threat to never return to the House Financial Services committee “voluntarily,” amid a tense exchange with committee chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA).
The argument began at the end of the hearing. Mnuchin had to depart early due to a meeting with a “foreign dignitary.”
“It will be embarrassing if I keep this person waiting for longer,” Mnuchin told Waters, after being asked why he could not stay to answer all of lawmakers on the committee’s questions.
“I do understand,” Waters replied. “We are all pressed for time.”
But Mnuchin, visibly frustrated at being asked to stay, complained that he was being asked to stay longer than Obama administration Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
“How long would you like me to come back for next time?” Mnuchin said. “I’ve told you I’ll accommodate you!”
Waters replied that “I appreciate your reminding us of the length of time other secretaries have been here. But this is a new way. It’s a new day. And it’s a new chair. And I have the gavel at this point.
“If you wish to leave, you may,” Waters added, without formally dismissing Mnuchin.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” Mnuchin said.
Waters replied: “You’re wasting your time. Remember, you have a foreign dignitary in your office?”
Mnuchin shot back “when the Republicans — they did not treat the secretary of the treasury this way. So if this is the way you want to treat me, then I’ll rethink whether I voluntarily come back here to testify.”
He added: “If you’d wish to keep me here so I don’t have my important meeting and continue to grill me, then I will do that, then I will cancel my meeting and I will not be back here. If that’s the way you’d like to have this relationship.”
Waters then told Mnuchin: “You are free to leave any time you want,” to which the secretary replied: “Please dismiss everybody. I believe you’re supposed to take the gravel (sic) and bang it.”
The next lawmaker in line for questions — Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) — then asked Mnuchin who the “foreign dignitary” he was scheduled to meet with was.
“I am meeting with a very senior person from Bahrain,” Mnuchin replied.