On Wednesday, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) flexed her muscles in a confusing and fiery exchange with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a hearing on Capitol Hill.
Secretary Mnuchin, who was testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, apparently had an important scheduled meeting which Waters, the chair of the committee, had prior knowledge of, and was looking to be excused so he could attend. The Democrat, in a bizarre, combative back-and-forth, wanted to dismiss Mnuchin without actually dismissing him — sort of.
As noted by Fox News, Mnuchin had already been testifying for some three and a half hours before he interrupted the hearing to remind the committee of their agreement to allow him to leave for his scheduled meeting with a top official from the government of Bahrain.
“I’ve sat here for over three hours and 15 minutes. I’ve told you I’ll come back. I just don’t believe we’re sitting here negotiating when I come back. We’ll follow up with your office. How long would you like me to come back for next time? I told you I would accommodate you,” Secretary Mnuchin told Rep. Waters.
“This is a new way. And it’s a new day. And it’s a new chair. And I have the gavel at this point. If you wish to leave you may,” Waters responded.
“Can you clarify that for me?” asked the secretary.
“Yes, ‘clarify’ is this: If you wish to leave, you may,” repeated the Democrat.
A confused Mnuchin again sought formal dismissal, “So, we’re dismissed? Is that correct?”
“If you wish to leave, you may leave,” Waters again repeated, before taking issue with Mnuchin for apparently informing the committee of his meeting a day prior to its commencement.
“If you’d wish to keep me here so that I don’t have my important meeting and continue to grill me, then we can do that,” a frustrated Mnuchin responded. “I will 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.”
Waters took that as an “offer” from Mnuchin to stay. “Thank you. The gentleman, the secretary, has agreed to stay. Please cancel your meeting and respect our time,” she said.
“You’re instructing me to stay and and cancel my meeting?” answered Mnuchin.
“You made me an offer that I accepted,” the congresswoman responded. “No, I’m not ordering you. I said you may leave anytime you want and you said okay.”
“Please dismiss everybody,” Mnuchin pleaded. “You’re supposed to take the gavel and bang it.”
“Please do not instruct me as to how I am to conduct this committee,” Waters replied.
The secretary ended up leaving without a formal dismissal from Waters and, according to Fox, “withdrew his offer to return before the committee in May.”