Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday that his department intends to "follow the law" and is reviewing a request by a top House Democrat to provide President Donald Trump's tax returns to lawmakers.
The public back-and-forth exposed the rancor between Mnuchin and Waters, a California Democrat who has promised aggressive oversight of President Donald Trump's administration and has long advocated for his impeachment.
"I believe that the communication between our legal department and the White House general counsel was informational", Mnuchin told a House appropriations subcommittee. I want to be clear that we will follow the law.
House Democrats spent much of the day peppering Mnuchin with a range of questions.
Federal law allows the Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees and the Joint Committee on Taxation to ask the IRS for the returns of any filer, but some legal scholars say a request requires Congress to have a legislative objective, including general oversight.
The two leaders began arguing after Mnuchin asked for the hearing to end so that he could attend a meeting with Bahrain's finance minister at 5:30 p.m.in Washington.
Mnuchin revealed the discussions during a congressional hearing.
"We're all late all the time, unfortunately", she said.
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"I appreciate that, and I appreciate your reminding us of the length of time other secretaries have been here".
Waters, D-Calif., asked Mnuchin if he could give the committee another 15 minutes so members who had been waiting for their five-minute turn could ask him questions. He seemed exasperated at the request and wouldn't agree to it.
Asked by reporters after the hearing if Treasury would meet the deadline, Mnuchin said, "In general, we try to accommodate these requests". "So if this is the way you want to treat me, then I will rethink whether I would voluntarily come back here later to testify, which I have offered to do".
The pair continued to spar for another minute or so-an exchange punctuated with Mnuchin imitating Waters using her gavel. He wouldn't get up until she adjourned the committee, and grew angrier and angrier.
"You made me an offer that I accepted", Waters said.
Waters swatted away the precedent. "This is a new way and it's a new day".
Mnuchin ultimately agreed to stay.
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".