Mnuchin Spars With Maxine Waters Before Meeting With Middle Eastern Country: ‘I Believe You’re Supposed To Take The Gavel’

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Phillip Stucky Contributor
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Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin engaged in a heated debate with Democratic Rep. and House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters during a Tuesday budget hearing before the House Financial Services Committee.

The secretary had a meeting scheduled with the Interior Minister of Bahrain later in the day and asked — before the hearing began — that he be allowed to leave on time to make his meeting, something that the chairwoman was unwilling to do as the hearing went late. (RELATED: Maxine Waters Finds Her First Target As House Financial Services Committee Chair)

“I have a foreign leader waiting in my office at 5:30 [p.m.] I’ve agreed to stay longer,” Mnuchin began the discussion. “It will be embarrassing if I keep this person waiting for a long period of time. I’ve assured you, I’m happy to come back here and answer more of your questions. I respect the committee, and we want to have a good working relationship with you. I hope you’ll understand.”

Mnuchin continued his arguments by asserting that no other secretary has been asked to sit for more than three hours and 15 minutes during a hearing and that he had already been present for questions longer than that record. He reiterated that he planned to make himself available for an additional hearing if he was allowed to leave.

“I appreciate that, and I appreciate your reminding us of the length of time other secretaries have been here. This is a new way and it is a new day and it is a new chair. I have the gavel at this point. If you wish to leave, you may,” Waters shot back, holding the gavel.

The California Democrat continued, reminding Mnuchin that no other secretary had imposed their own limits on the length of time a hearing could go. She argued that any comparison to past visits before the committee was unfair and ended by telling the secretary that he was free to leave.

Mnuchin then responded, “If you wish to keep me here so that I don’t have my important meeting and continue to grill me, then we can do that. I can cancel my meeting, and I will not be back here. I will be very clear. If that’s the way you’d like to have this relationship.”

He continued, “Let’s be clear. You are instructing me  — you are ordering me — to stay here. What I told you is I thought it was respectful that you’d let me leave at 5:15, which is the current time.”

Waters then cut in, offering that Mnuchin was free to leave whenever he wished, but Mnuchin pushed further, appearing to ask for official permission to leave.

“Well then, please dismiss everybody. I believe you’re supposed to take the gavel and bang it,” Mnuchin concluded.

Waters cut him off, “Please do not instruct me as to how I’m to conduct this committee.”

Morning Joe guest Willy Geist asserted after the exchange that the whole argument was like an outtake of an episode of HBO’s popular political comedy, “Veep.”