Democratic lawmakers grilled the head of the Office of Management and Budget at a hearing Wednesday for boosting his own agency’s budget while slashing spending levels for most of the rest of government.
OMB Director Mick Mulvaney defended the proposed 5 percent bump for fiscal 2018, saying the agency was undertaking two of President Trump’s “highest priorities” and therefore needed to up its spending. The director was referencing executive orders from the president tasking OMB with overseeing a deregulation effort and a reorganization of the executive branch of government. OMB requested $103 million in fiscal 2018, about a $5 million increase over its current funding level.
The reorganization would allow the government to examine itself on a “blank slate,” Mulvaney said before asking, “How exciting is that?” He went on to defend why the reorganization justified an uptick in spending at his agency: “OMB is responsible for that, a huge undertaking.”
Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee panel to which Mulvaney was testifying, did not find that argument convincing.
“Virtually everybody else has to do belt tightening,” Quigley said. “It doesn’t apply to your own organization.”
Mulvaney said the OMB and larger Executive Office of the President budgets were a microcosm of Trump’s overall blueprint: “Spend more money in some places, less in others.”
Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said the OMB funding increase would be better spent elsewhere.
“You boost your department at the expense of hardworking taxpaying families,” Lowey said.
Meals on Wheels, HOME Investment Partnerships, Legal Services all cut while OMB proposes pumping up its own budget.— Appropriations-Dems (@AppropsDems) June 21, 2017
Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, suggested a reform for Mulvaney’s other big overhaul effort: Federal employees working on rulemaking should be required to publish their names when promulgating a new regulation. Young, who has introduced legislation to that effect, said it would “end the nameless, faceless bureaucracy.”
Mulvaney said he would have concerns about it having a “chilling effect,” but promised to bring the idea back to the White House. “You’ve hit the nail on the head: nameless, faceless bureaucracy,” he said. “It’s a great point.”
The director received advice from other lawmakers outside the hearing, with Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., writing a letter to Mulvaney imploring him to bring back reporting requirements on agency conference spending. OMB rolled back the policy last week as part of a larger effort to reduce the time agencies spend issuing reports. OMB officials defended the decision by pointing to new internal controls agencies have to restrict conference spending, put in place since the scandals that caused the Obama administration to create the requirements in the first place.
“These measures were implemented to protect the American taxpayers,” the lawmakers wrote, “and we urge you to keep them in place.”