Things got testy Thursday morning during the Senate Finance Committee's hearing for President-elect Donald Trump's pick to serve as treasury secretary, former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin.
Sen. Ron Wyden, the committee's ranking minority member and a Democrat from Oregon, went on a no-holds-barred diatribe against Mnuchin, slamming him endlessly for his work with the controversial OneWest Bank.
After Wyden's lengthy opening statement, which indicated he has nothing but disdain for the hedge fund manager, Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts jabbed his colleague, urging him to calm down.
"Sen. Wyden, I've got a Valium here that you might want to take before the second round," Roberts joked, reaching into his suit-jacket pocket. "Just a suggestion, sir."
The jab didn't go over too well. Wyden glossed over the comment and urged Roberts to be brief in his remarks, though it wasn't long before Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) joined in on the hullabaloo.
"Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman," Brown chimed in, addressing Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). "I hope that that comment about Valium doesn't set the tone for 2017 and this committee. I just — I like Sen. Roberts, but I just can't quite believe that he would say that to a distinguished senator from Oregon."
With Mnuchin staring on with a smirk, Brown called Roberts' joke "outrageous," sparking the Kansas senator to say: "I don't know about outrageous, but I think just a little pinprick of humor might help this committee from time to time, which I engage in."
"I'm sorry if I have, um, you know, incurred your wrath, sir, so, we'll be alright," he added.
When Roberts finally got back to completing his statement, he was cut off yet again — this time by Wyden, who interrupted the Republican because "we have many colleagues waiting."
"Fine, Ron," Roberts charged, "I'm done!"
The entire confrontation was launched by Wyden's lengthy opening remarks about Mnuchin.
In 2008, Mnuchin purchased the defunct IndyMac Bank, which was based in Pasadena, California, for $1.6 billion and recreated it as OneWest Bank. While the purchase, and his subsequent management of the bank, had not really made many headlines in several years, it earned renewed attention when Trump tapped him to lead the Treasury Department.
While the endeavor proved to be extremely successful for Mnuchin and his fellow investors (OneWest sold to CIT Group, Inc., for $3.4 billion in 2015), it has been dubbed a "foreclosure machine" by some in the housing advocacy market, according to Forbes, because of the alleged 36,000 foreclosures that occurred under Mnuchin's leadership.
"Under Mr. Mnuchin, OneWest churned out foreclosures like Chinese factories churning out Trump suits and ties," Wyden said Thursday. "And with the combination of extreme foreclosure tactics and a bailout from the [Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.], OneWest became a rainmaker for Mr. Mnuchin and his fellow investors."
After the bank sold in 2015, some accounting issues began cropping up. Accountants at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found the bank's books to be a mess, and the CIT Group discovered a $230 million shortfall.
Mnuchin, however, has defended his work at OneWest. On Thursday, he stood by his record, telling the committee: "The bank would likely have been broken up and sold in pieces to private investors, where the outcome for consumers could have been much bleaker."