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What Senators Really Think of the Administration's Approach to Budgeting

Susan Collins and Jack Reed walk together in 2015 on Capitol Hill. Susan Collins and Jack Reed walk together in 2015 on Capitol Hill. Susan Walsh/AP file photo

After a Tuesday morning markup hearing of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, seemingly forgot to turn off her microphone before she began a short conversation with her colleague, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. It quickly got interesting. 

In what appears to be a moment of candor, the two questioned the sanity and knowledge of both the president and officials at the Office of Management and Budget.

As reported by the Washington Post on Tuesday, Collins wondered if White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and the Office of Management and Budget staff had a plan—other than to cut anything with the word "grant" in it—when releasing the administration's budget earlier this year.

"I swear, OMB just went through and whenever there was ‘grant,’ they just X it out," Collins said on the hot mic. "With no measurement, no thinking about it, no metrics, no nothing. It’s just incredibly irresponsible."

Later in the conversation, Reed questioned the numbers released by Mulvaney and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin regarding the costs of Trump's promises.

"You’ve got Mulvaney saying we’re going to put in all sorts of stuff like a border wall. Then you’ve got Munchin (sic) saying it’s got to be clean," Reed said. He also questioned if government—including the Pentagon—will function in the face of Trump's budget.

“You know, this thing—if we don’t get a budget deal, we’re going to be paralyzed," Reed said. “DoD is going to be paralyzed, everybody is going to be paralyzed,” Reed says.

Collins also wondered if Trump had any idea about the machinations of the Budget Control Act, saying "I don’t think he knows there is a [Budget Control Act] or anything."

"It’s just—and he hasn’t—not one word about the budget. Not one word about the debt ceiling," Reed said.

Collins, a moderate Republican, has been a critic of the Trump administration during the first six months of Trump's presidency and wrote an op-ed for The Post during the 2016 campaign on why she did not support him.

Prior to joining Government Executive’s staff, Ross Gianfortune worked at The Washington Post, The Gazette Newspapers, WXRT Radio and The Columbia Missourian. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from University of Missouri and a master's in communications from the American University.

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