(Bloomberg) – President-elect Donald Trump said he will nominate Representative Mick Mulvaney, a founding member of an outspoken group of fiscal conservatives who helped oust a former U.S. House speaker, to be director of the Office of Management and Budget.
“We are going to do great things for the American people with Mick Mulvaney,” Trump said Saturday in an e-mailed statement. “Right now we are nearly $20 trillion in debt, but Mick is a very high-energy leader with deep convictions for how to responsibly manage our nation’s finances and save our country from drowning in red ink.”
Since arriving in Congress as part of the Republican Tea Party wave elected in 2010, Mulvaney has been one of the most pugilistic advocates for cutting government spending.
“The Trump administration will restore budgetary and fiscal sanity back in Washington after eight years of an out-of-control, tax-and-spend financial agenda, ” Mulvaney, 49, of South Carolina said in the statement. “Each day, families across our nation make disciplined choices about how to spend their hard-earned money, and the federal government should exercise the same discretion that hardworking Americans do every day.”
In 2011 he co-authored a measure passed by the House that would have slashed spending while conditioning a $2.4 trillion debt-ceiling increase on passage of a constitutional amendment to balance the budget and make it harder to raise taxes.
He also helped lead an effort to defund or delay Obamacare that resulted in a 16-day government shutdown in 2013. As OMB chief, he would run the office responsible for implementing future shutdowns should they occur.
“President-elect Trump has picked the ringleader of Republicans’ efforts to hold the full faith and credit of the United States hostage,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said in a statement. “We cannot have an OMB director who sees inflicting pain on working families as leverage for his radical agenda.”
Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky, who will be the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee next year, called Mulvaney a friend and said he put in some good words for him with Trump’s transition team at Mulvaney’s request. But he added that he has some concerns about Mulvaney as OMB chief.
‘Hit the Ground Running’
“The one problem I would have with him is I know that when we shut the government down a few years ago, he was one who said that it’s OK to shut the government down,” Yarmuth said in an interview on C-Span’s Newsmakers program. “I’d like to hear him in confirmation hearings say one of the directives of a budget director is to avoid shutting the government down, and avoid defaulting on the national debt.”
Fellow South Carolina lawmakers lauded Mulvaney. “He’s done his homework when it comes to the federal budget and will hit the ground running in this very important job,” Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement posted on Twitter. Said Representative Trey Gowdy, “Mick is incredibly bright and capable, and I have no doubt his conservative principles will help restore our nation’s fiscal health.”
Mulvaney has also drawn the ire of some fellow conservatives for his efforts to cut certain Pentagon spending, including writing a 2012 amendment with liberal Democrat Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts that would have frozen defense spending.
“We need to stop measuring our commitment to national defense by how much we spend, and look more closely at how we spend our money,” Mulvaney said in a 2013 op-ed.
His selection by Trump comes as some Republicans in Congress are demanding more defense spending, and the president-elect has promised to invest more in the military. Mulvaney’s nomination will be subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Mulvaney helped create the House Freedom Caucus -- a group of about three-dozen spending hawks that battled with former Speaker John Boehner over his compromises with moderates and Democrats on spending bills. Boehner resigned last year and his successor, Speaker Paul Ryan, insisted he wouldn’t take the job unless he had Freedom Caucus support.
Ryan, who served with Mulvaney on the House budget committee, returned the favor on Saturday. “Mick Mulvaney is the absolute right choice,” he said in a statement. “He has been a conservative reformer from day one, proposing solutions to fix the budget process and our regulatory system. At OMB, he will lead the work he has started to improve the way government does the people’s business.”
Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana suggested Mulvaney may be a check on Trump’s desire for heavy infrastructure spending. He applauded the president-elect’s commitment “to bring budgetary sanity and fiscal responsibility to our federal government.”
Mulvaney was also among the House Republicans who refused to pay dues to the National Republican Congressional Committee, complaining the group was too close to the party establishment and might be working against some conservatives in primaries.
The South Carolinian serves on the House Financial Services Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and previously was a member of the Small Business and Budget panels.
He earned an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After working in private legal practice and in his family’s home-building business, he became an owner-operator of a regional restaurant chain.
Mulvaney entered politics when he was elected to the South Carolina House in 2006. He had been viewed as a potential candidate for governor of South Carolina in 2018, but Trump’s selection of current Governor Nikki Haley to be United Nations ambassador could lift the current lieutenant governor into the spot and make it harder for others to run.
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