Things got a bit heated at the end of more than three hours of testimony by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin before the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday when he was peppered with questions about releasing President Donald Trump’s tax returns.
Mnuchin, who had already faced similar questions before a different committee earlier Tuesday, told the committee chairwoman, Maxine Waters, that he needed to leave at 5:15 p.m. to make a 5:30 p.m. meeting in his office with a foreign leader.
Waters, D-Calif., asked Mnuchin if he could give the committee another 15 minutes so members who had been waiting for their five-minute turn could ask him questions.
Mnuchin said it would be “embarrassing” if he kept the foreign leader, whom he later identified as an official of Bahrain, waiting any longer.
He and Waters then sparred over whether Mnuchin would agree to come back two more times in May to allow lawmakers who had not had a chance to ask questions get a turn.
Mnuchin said that he had a list of appearances by other Treasury secretaries and that none of them had been forced to testify for more than three hours and 15 minutes. He said that when Republicans controlled the House, “they did not treat the secretary of the Treasury this way.”
Waters, however, told him: “This is a new day and it’s a new chair, and I have the gavel at this point. If you wish to leave, you may.”
That comment seemed to confuse Mnuchin, who did not know whether Waters was ending the hearing.
Mnuchin told Waters, “Please dismiss everybody. I believe you are supposed to take the gavel and bang it.”
Waters replied sharply, “Do not instruct me as to how I am to conduct this hearing.”
In the end, Waters won the day. Mnuchin, probably remembering the power that a congressional committee chair wields, stayed for another 15 minutes of questions and then told Waters, “I look forward to being back in May, and we will work on a date.”
To which Waters, one of Trump’s favorite targets for insults, replied, “Thank you very much.”
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