Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had a closed-door meeting with House Republicans
The House voted to approve a package to lift the debt ceiling and fund Hurricane aid
House Republicans unleashed their fury Friday over President Donald Trump’s deal with the Democrats at Steve Mnuchin, with conservatives calling the treasury secretary’s appeal to them to “vote for it for me” insulting and inappropriate.
Mnuchin, along with Trump’s budget chief, Mick Mulvaney went up to Capitol Hill shortly before a vote on the package, which included money for hurricane aid, a continuing resolution to keep the government open and a three-month extension of the debt ceiling.
Multiple House Republicans emerged infuriated and dissatisfied that they addressed their concerns that the deal wasn’t the right strategy to get some of the spending reforms they’ve been pushing.
In the closed-door meeting, Mnuchin appeared to exacerbate the anger of House Republicans who opposed clean debt limit extensions, as the treasury secretary appealed to members to do this “for me,” according to two members in the meeting.
Florida Republican Ted Yoho told reporters one House Republican told the treasury secretary directly “you know what, unfortunately you don’t get voted in or voted out and you can’t vote for me.”
Most rank-and-file House Republicans don’t know Mnuchin and more than one said they believed he was a Democrat, based on his previous donations to political candidates.
A source in the room described Mnuchin’s performance as one where the treasury secretary clearly did not understand the long-simmering frustrations among conservatives when it came to raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts. Mnuchin further irritated conservatives when he left the meeting because of other commitments with roughly a dozen members still in line waiting for him to answer their questions.
Rep. David Brat added Mnuchin’s arguments were “intellectually insulting.” Brat said members asked Mnuchin and Mulvaney for reassurances that the GOP have a bigger fiscal plan and got nothing in return.
“Crickets,” the Virginia Republican said, adding that House Speaker Paul Ryan could say nothing to assure them that Trump wouldn’t repeat a deal like this in the future.
The frustration with Mnuchin stretched over to the White House later Friday, as one official there called Munchin’s pitch amateurish and a sign of his relative unfamiliarity with Washington.
Mnuchin’s urging that Republicans vote for the bill “for me” was not part of the administration’s planned pitch, the official said, adding it isn’t being well received in some circles at the White House.
The treasury secretary was not the only one who faced some tough questions.
Other House Republicans reminded Mulvaney, a former congressman from South Carolina and a strident conservative who once railed against clean debt ceilings, of his past votes and statements opposing debt hikes. However, one GOP member said it was mostly teasing.
Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan said he personally asked White House officials in the room for a plan on how they are going to tackle the debt ceiling in December and he said they didn’t have a good answer.
Angering Duncan who said it was supposed to be different under Trump.
“This ought to be a lot more fun than it is, I promise you,” he said.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker, was outraged by Mnuchin’s move to make it about himself, and when asked if that helped in getting votes, said that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s wrap-up at the end of the meeting was meant to stem the damage.
Walker told reporters that “if any votes were gathered it was McCarthy doing a great job to bring it back together at the end of it because it got very loose with Mulvaney and Mnuchin.”
“It was very uncomfortable for them and they didn’t really have any answers to the many of the questions and Mnuchin’s closing statement like that, any progress that might have been gained – to say ‘vote for the debt ceiling for me’ – that that just didn’t register well at all,” Walker said.
According to a source in the room, McCarthy worked to get House Republicans on the page, after many were critical and surprised by the administration’s presentation.
The California Republican told members, “This isn’t the worst day we’ve ever had, and we will come together.”