Steven Mnuchin, Trump's treasury nominee, grilled by Senate about banking record
Rick Perry questioned about previous vow to abolish the Energy Department
U.S. president-elect Donald Trump's choice for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, defended his banking record in the aftermath of the financial crisis on Thursday, and tried to sell senators on why he should be given stewardship of the U.S. financial system.
Elsewhere, Rick Perry, Trump's pick to run the Energy Department, faced questions at a Washington, D.C., hearing about creating jobs in the industry and bolstering U.S. energy security. He also apologized for his earlier proposal to abolish the agency.
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Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive, hedge fund manager and Hollywood film financier, would be the first Wall Street veteran to head the Treasury Department in eight years.
In prepared testimony for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Mnuchin said accusations that his OneWest Bank was a "foreclosure machine" after the housing bubble burst were untrue and politically motivated.
"Since I was first nominated to serve as treasury secretary, I have been maligned as taking advantage of others' hardships in order to earn a buck. Nothing could be further from the truth," Mnuchin wrote in his opening statement.
Democrats see an easy target in the more than 36,000 foreclosures that OneWest pursued after Mnuchin struck a lucrative deal with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp to absorb most of the losses from such actions.
Perry addresses climate change skepticism
Trump has touted Perry, 66, who was governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015, making him the longest-serving governor of the oil-producing state, as a person who can usher in energy jobs.
Perry said during his Senate confirmation hearing that global warming caused by humans is real, but efforts to combat it should not cost American jobs.
The comment marks a shift for the former Texas governor, who had previously called the science behind climate change "unsettled" and a "contrived, phoney mess." It also clashes with Trump's statements during his campaign for the White House that global warming is a hoax meant to weaken U.S. business.
"I believe the climate is changing. I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by manmade activity. The question is how do we address it in a thoughtful way that doesn't compromise economic growth, the affordability of energy, or American jobs," Perry said.
Trump has vowed to slash U.S. regulations curbing carbon dioxide emissions and has suggested pulling America out of a global climate change pact signed in Paris in 2015.
During the hearing, Perry said he also regrets having previously called for the department's elimination, during his failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.
That proposal, which has become known as his "oops" moment, came during a Republican presidential candidate debate when he could not initially remember all of the three cabinet-level departments he wanted to eliminate — the departments of Commerce, Education and Energy.
"After being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination," he said in his opening remarks to the committee on energy and natural resources."
The department is responsible for revamping the nation's aging nuclear weapons as many are decades old. More than half of the department's $32.5 billion US budget goes to maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal and cleaning up the country's nuclear waste legacy from the Cold War. Democrats also plan to ask Perry about how he will protect the electricity grid from cyber attacks, an aide to a senator said.