March 14, 2019

Cortez Masto Slams Mnuchin Over His Inability to Answer Basic Questions About National Debt

Cortez Masto at Finance Hearing

Washington, D.C. – At a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) pressed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on his inability to tell her the national debt.

In her questioning about the Republican tax cut, Senator Cortez Masto asked Secretary Mnuchin to confirm the size of the national debt. “We’ll get back to you with the exact number,” Mnuchin responded.

“You do not know, sitting right here, what our national debt is as the Treasury Secretary?” the senator asked Mnuchin. “Well, I can tell you. It’s over $20 trillion dollars.”

Secretary Mnuchin was also unable to answer the senator’s questions about an unpublished Internal Revenue Service (IRS) decision blocking affordable housing options for Nevada veterans or exactly when the Treasury Department would appoint a new Student Loan Ombudsman to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

“In a misinterpretation of the statute of congressional intent, the IRS has decided that private activity bonds can no longer be used for veteran housing projects, and as a result, ongoing projects have been halted and the ability of veteran housing facilities to renovate or expand will be significantly impaired in my state. Can you tell me, when did the IRS make the decision to reinterpret the general public use criteria applied to private activity bonds and what was the justification for the change?” the senator asked.

Secretary Mnuchin said he shared similar concerns and would work with the Committee and Cortez Masto’s office to address them. He offered an apology, saying he was not briefed on the specifics of the issue.

Citing Americans’ $1.5 trillion student loan debt, the senator asked Mnuchin when the Treasury Department would fulfill its responsibility to designate a Student Loan Ombudsman at the CFPB after the last ombudsman resigned in protest over concerns that the agency was no longer protecting students or enforcing the law. Mnuchin said it would be filled “very soon” but did not provide a timeframe.

Full video of the exchange is available here.