Lawmakers Reject White House Request for More Money to Cut Government

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney testifies on Capitol Hill in May. OMB Director Mick Mulvaney testifies on Capitol Hill in May. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The White House Office of Management and Budget turned some heads on Capitol Hill when it requested a spending boost for itself while demanding cuts throughout the rest of the federal government.

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney told an appropriations subcommittee last month that his agency faced new responsibilities—including overseeing restructuring and reductions at most federal agencies—and therefore needed more money to carry them out. House lawmakers, it turns out, did not buy Mulvaney’s sales pitch.

While the agency requested a 5 percent spending bump in fiscal 2018 to $103 million, the Fiscal 2018 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act would instead cut OMB’s budget slightly from the $98 million Mulvaney said his agency wound up with in fiscal 2017 to $97 million next year. While the difference is minuscule relative to government spending, the symbolism of the request—in an era in which the Trump administration was proposing shared sacrifice—was not lost on members of Congress.

The proposal caused quite a stir at a hearing last month, with lawmakers questioning why OMB exempted itself from the nearly governmentwide cuts it suggested throughout the president’s fiscal 2018 budget blueprint. Mulvaney said 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.

“OMB is responsible for that, a huge undertaking,” Mulvaney said of the restructuring effort, in defending his proposed budget increase.

Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee panel before 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.

OMB and Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., who authored the appropriations bill containing OMB’s budget, did not respond to requests for comment.

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