Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin appeared to stage a surprising break from the Trump White House on Thursday and endorsed congressional action on gun violence in the wake of the devastating school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead.
His office says that’s not so.
Instead, according to a Treasury official, Mnuchin was referring to whether there was money in the federal budget to examine the proliferation of mass shootings in the United States, not whether Congress should consider new gun control laws.
“Secretary Mnuchin was directly addressing Congressman [John] Lewis’ question about availability of funds in the budget to address the issue of gun violence. He also reflected the feelings shared by all Americans that yesterday’s school shooting was a profound tragedy,” said Treasury spokesman Tony Sayegh.
The controversy began Thursday morning when Mnuchin responded to a question from Rep. Lewis (D-Ga.) at a House Ways and Means Committee on whether there was money in the White House budget request to address gun violence.
At first, Mnuchin hesitated. “I’m not aware of that level of detail in the budget for me to be the expert to attest on that,” he said.
Then he added: “I will say, personally, I think the gun violence — it’s a tragedy what we’ve seen yesterday, and I urge Congress to look at these issues,” Mnuchin said.
The comment surprised Washington as Mnuchin is viewed as fiercely loyal to Trump in public and disinclined to buck the administration line on any topic. And the official White House position — and the dominant position in the GOP — is to oppose all new gun regulations. It appears Mnuchin’s position is no different.