White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Tuesday that he probably wouldn’t have voted for the spending hikes Congress approved last week and President Trump incorporated into his budget this week, but it’s now his job to defend the White House’s priorities.
The former congressman was testifying to the Senate Budget Committee on Mr. Trump’s 2019 blueprint when Sen. Patty Murray tried to pin him down.
“If you were in Congress, would you have voted for this budget that you’re presenting?” Mrs. Murray asked.
“[I’ll] give you the same answer I gave on Sunday, which is that as a member of Congress representing the 5th District of South Carolina, I probably would have found enough shortcomings in this to vote against it, as did many members of this committee,” Mr. Mulvaney said.
“But I’m the director of the Office of Management and Budget and my job is to try and fund the president’s priorities, which is exactly what we did,” he said. “I don’t think that reflects on my opinion of it as a member of the administration.”
Mr. Mulvaney’s office later clarified that he was expressing opposition to the two-year budget deal Congress passed and Mr. Trump signed last week to raise spending in 2018 and 2019 — not to Mr. Trump’s new budget.
“Naturally, he would vote for the President’s FY19 budget that he released yesterday,” said OMB spokeswoman Meghan Burris.
But Mrs. Murray apparently took him to mean that he would have voted against the budget plan, which calls for $4.38 trillion in spending next year.
“It was nice to hear an honest answer from OMB Dir. Mulvaney in the budget hearing today. I asked if he would vote for President Trump’s budget if he were in Congress, and he said that he wouldn’t. That’s one thing we agree on!” she said on Twitter.
Presidential budget plans are routinely rejected by Congress, but the exercise has been overshadowed even more this year because many requests are likely to get superseded or folded into the discretionary spending levels set by the two-year deal.
Before joining the Trump administration, Mr. Mulvaney had been first elected to Congress as part of the Tea Party wave in 2010. He was an early member of the House Freedom Caucus, a band of conservatives who are fierce advocates of reining in the federal debt.
The White House’s 2019 budget blueprint includes some $3.7 trillion in cuts, but does not achieve balance over a 10-year period.
Mr. Mulvaney acknowledged as much in his testimony, saying he tried to get rid of some of the gimmicks that had been used in the past and that he didn’t want to try to “fudge” the numbers.
He said he was worried that last year’s budget process would be the final chance he’d have to present a plan that balanced over 10 years.
“And I said at that time that if Congress did not take steps last year, and the administration did not take steps last year, to change the trajectory of our spending that I would not be able to balance the budget within 10 years this year, and that has been the case,” he said.
Congress’s recent two-year spending deal could clear the way for some $2 trillion in new spending over the next decade, and Republicans also passed a tax-cut package late last year that added an immediate $1.5 trillion in red ink.
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