Steven Mnuchin, a former Hollywood financier and Goldman Sachs executive, has been sworn in as treasury secretary. The ex-banker now heads the agency that controls taxation, sanctions and bank regulation.
The bitterly divided US Senate confirmed Steven Mnuchin to be the next secretary of the US Treasury on Monday night, with Republicans overcoming strong objections from Democrats over President Donald Trump's nominee.
Shortly after his confirmation, Mnuchin was sworn in in the Oval Office where Trump hailed his track record and called him a "financial legend."
"He has spent his entire career making money in the private sector - and that's ok. It's what we want, especially when you're secretary of the Treasury," Trump said.
Trump added that the 54-year-old will work on tax reductions for the middle class as well as financial reforms.
Lawmakers and businesses alike have been waiting for Mnuchin to take office and bring clarity to how he will pursue tax reform as well as international economic cooperation efforts with partners in China, Mexico and Europe who are worried about the extent of Trump's "America First" strategy.
Mnuchin, however, did not reveal many details of his plans for the Treasury after he was sworn in on Monday.
"I am committed to using the full powers of this office to create more jobs, to combat terrorist activities and financing, and to make America great again," Mnuchin said.
In the past, Trump has pledged to loosen up capital markets regulation, saying he wants to undo substantial parts of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law enacted after the 2007-2009 housing collapse. He's also threatened to impose a border tax adjustment system to boost US exports.
As head of the Treasury, Mnunchin will also be in charge of imposing economic sanctions, including on Russia.
The US Senate voted 53-47 to confirm Mnuchin, with all but one Democrat opposing him. The confirmation votes for Trump's Cabinet picks have unveiled partisan divisions in the Republican-controlled Senate, with many of Trump's nominees being approved by party-line votes.
Republicans praised Mnunchin's experience in finance, saying it makes him qualified to run the department.
Democrats, on the other hand, argued that Mnunchin made a great deal of money by foreclosing on thousands of homes as head of OneWest Bank during the financial crisis.
Some lawmakers labeled him a "foreclosure machine" for foreclosing on 36,000 homes shortly after Mnunchin's investor group acquired IndyMac Bank and rebranded it as OneWest.
In 2011, the Treasury Department found that OneWest used "unsafe or unsound" practices in mortgage servicing and foreclosure proceedings.
rs/kl (AP, AFP, Reuters)