During a hearing on Tuesday, an exasperated Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin made House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA) an offer he didn’t think she’d accept — but she did.
Mnuchin, worried about missing his “important meeting,” offered to continue with his testimony, but said that if Waters asked him to do that, he would not return to testify before the new House Democratic majority in the future.
“I will cancel my meeting and I will not be back here,” he said. “I will be very clear.”
Waters, to his surprise, accepted.
“The secretary has agreed to stay to hear all the rest of the members,” she said. “Please cancel your meeting and respect our time.”
Mnuchin — a public servant who seems to think he has better things to do than testify before a congressional committee — tried to walk back his offer, but Waters wasn’t having it. Before their exchange was through, Mnuchin tried to explain how to run a committee to Waters, who has served in Congress since 1991, telling her to “please dismiss everybody. I believe you are supposed to take the gravel and bang it.”
“Please do not instruct me as to how I am to conduct this committee,” Waters responded.
Video of the incident quickly went viral.
In testy exchange, Rep. Maxine Waters tells Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, "no other secretary has ever told us the day before that they were going to limit their time."— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) April 9, 2019
"You're ordering me to stay here .... that's not what I want to do," Mnuchin says https://t.co/tFCpfQzXeL pic.twitter.com/H7je3oxk6G
A short time later, Mnuchin lamented that he was already late for his meeting with “a very senior person from Bahrain that is here to talk about national security issues and sanctions,” and told Waters he’d “withdrawn my offer to voluntarily come back.”
“You can choose to do whatever you want,” Waters told him.
This is not the first time a Waters-Mnuchin exchange has become an online sensation. In July 2017, Waters repeatedly demanded to “reclaim my time” while Mnuchin tried to run out the clock during her period to ask him questions. That viral moment became a meme that eventually found its way onto shirts.
"Reclaiming My Time," the story of a people. pic.twitter.com/ZRlHNbQamt— deray (@deray) July 28, 2017
The difference is that now, Democrats are the majority party in the House. But Mnuchin’s unwillingness to cooperate with them goes beyond being upset about having to participate in hearings.
During other parts of Tuesday’s hearing, Mnuchin danced around questions about whether the Treasury Department will comply with a request from House Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) for President Trump’s tax returns. In other public comments, Mnuchin has already indicated he’s likely not to willingly turn them over.
Later Wednesday, Waters told CNN that she thinks Democrats should take the fight for Trump’s tax returns all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.
“I think that’s a fight that the public wants us to fight,” Waters said. “They want to see those tax returns. He said he would give those tax returns, every other president has released those tax returns, and that’s a fight that we should have.”