Trump Nominates a Fiscal Megahawk to Direct the Federal Budget

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Mulvaney during a House Oversight Committee hearing in September. Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

President-elect Donald Trump announced on Saturday that Tea Party congressman Mick Mulvaney will be his nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. The 49-year-old Mulvaney, the co-founder of the notorious House Freedom Caucus and one of the biggest fiscal hawks in the Republican Party, is already vowing to use the position to “restore budgetary and fiscal sanity back in Washington after eight years of an out-of-control, tax-and-spend financial agenda.” Mulvaney, who would run the government’s spending and regulatory infrastructure, is an anti-Washington, antiestablishment, conservative hard-liner whose views on spending cuts run to the extreme of most of his GOP colleagues, and who has been willing to see the U.S. default on its debts if that means him getting his way.

Mulvaney’s greatest hits in Congress include being one of the biggest proponents of using government shutdowns in efforts to defund Obamacare, eliminate Planned Parenthood, or prevent the raising of the federal-debt ceiling. Remarked Mulvaney, speaking proudly of the shutdown threats during the last such fight in 2015, “I’ll play chicken with you every time. You think I am crazy, and I know you are not.”

The South Carolina congressman has also pushed for a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget, allied with Democrats to push for major military spending cuts, and was one of the lawmakers who was instrumental in pushing former Speaker of the House John Boehner out of power in 2015. As Government Executive notes, Mulvaney is also an advocate for cutting the size of the federal workforce and privatizing some of the government’s functions, and he even tried to eliminate transit benefits for federal employees as a way to pay for Hurricane Sandy relief — an emergency relief bill he almost scuttled in Congress because he wanted to fully offset the cost of the bill with spending cuts. (New Jersey governor and Hurricane Sandy poster-politician Chris Christie ended up shaming Mulvaney and his colleagues into submission on the bill.)

Spending isn’t the only area that Mulvaney can influence, either. Kevin Drum at Mother Jones rings another warning bell regarding Mulvaney, considering how the congressman, if confirmed, would also be in charge of approving information collection and the government’s statistical practices:

Mulvaney will be the patron saint of “cost-benefit” analysis of federal regulations — which, in Republican hands, normally means totting up the costs and ignoring the benefits. In particular, it means that environmental regulations, even those with immense benefits, will be scored into oblivion and never see the light of day.

Then again, while the congressman’s desire to get rid of the Affordable Care Act is well-established (an outcome he will soon be in a position to help facilitate), it’s not at all clear how Trump’s enormous $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan will flesh out with people like Mulvaney around to implement it. Same goes with Trump’s notions of tax-code reform. Regardless, selecting Mulvaney is likely to calm conservative lawmakers who were worried that Trump might embrace big-government policies — especially when considering how at least one analysis indicated that Trump’s various policy proposals, if implemented, could add as much as $5.3 trillion to the national debt (and that might be a conservative estimate). Meanwhile, for those worried the Trump administration will do everything it can to gut the government in every way possible, the Mulvaney pick is consistent with several other cabinet picks pointing in that direction.

Another consistency is that of the 22 people Trump has selected for his cabinet, Mulvaney is the 17th pick to be a white man. At the current pace, according to the Associated Press, the Trump White House will probably feature the least diverse cabinet in more than 25 years. As a point of comparison, President Obama started his first term in office with 13 cabinet members who were women or minorities, compared to Trump’s total, thus far, of five. Furthermore, UC Berkeley School of Law professor Anne Joseph O’Connell, who tracks these statistics, tells the AP that she expects even less diversity in the lower levels of government under Trump.

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if you look at the the upper levels of the Trump Organization. During the campaign, an AP review found a very low representation of minorities among the company’s executives. In addition, while Trump’s inner circles may not reflect the diversity of America’s overall population — they certainly reflect his base: As many as nine in ten Trump voters were white, and a majority male, according to exit polls.

Trump Nominates a Fiscal Megahawk to Direct Federal Budget