June 8, 2017


What Good Is a Treasury Department if You Don't Have the Staff to Run It? : By relying on career people rather than political hires, Steven Mnuchin risks losing his ability to influence policy debates. (Saleha Mohsin and Robert Schmidt, 6/08/17, Bloomberg)

Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin has one of the biggest to-do lists in Washington: Rewrite the tax code, spearhead a repeal of financial regulation, and persuade Congress to raise the debt ceiling. The agenda would be staggering in the best of circumstances, but he has a more urgent problem--a skeletal staff.

Mnuchin, a former Wall Street banker turned Hollywood financier, is the only Senate-confirmed official at Treasury. His pick for the No. 2 job, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. wealth manager Jim Donovan, recently dropped out, leaving Mnuchin with no deputy secretary, no undersecretaries, and one assistant secretary. Nominees for two undersecretary positions, the third-highest-­ranking jobs at Treasury, are stuck in the Senate, while another, for domestic finance, has yet to be named.

Instead, Mnuchin is relying on a small group of "counselors" that he's assembled who don't require confirmation. Each of these four senior aides, which include Craig Phillips, an ex-BlackRock Inc. executive and top Hillary Clinton donor, have large areas of oversight, including debt management, tax policy, and budget issues. Mnuchin also has hundreds of career staffers at his disposal. Of the 27 key remaining positions that require Senate confirmation, eight have nominees, according to the Partnership for Public Service, a Washington-based nonprofit. "Treasury has made significant progress building our team," says a Treasury spokesman. Stephen Myrow, a Treasury aide during the George W. Bush administration, says that without political hires, Mnuchin will have a harder time pushing policies forward. "The civil servants are reluctant to make tough calls without having the policy direction from a new administration," he says.

Financial industry executives and lobbyists who have had meetings at Treasury say the hallways are unusually quiet and many offices have closed doors and blank nameplates. Some still display the names of Obama political appointees. A disorganized White House ­personnel process has slowed things down, as has a rigorous vetting of potential nominees' social media accounts designed to look for any anti-Trump remarks.

Posted by at June 8, 2017 8:56 AM