OMB Director-designate Mick Mulvaney testifies on Capitol Hill last week.

OMB Director-designate Mick Mulvaney testifies on Capitol Hill last week. Carolyn Kaster/AP

Trump OMB Nominee Clears Two Senate Panels Along Party Lines

Republicans portray Rep. Mulvaney as passionate, but Dems reject his past "brinksmanship."

Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney, the Tea Party favorite from South Carolina, saw his nomination to be President Trump’s budget director clear two Senate panels on Thursday, each by a single vote.

First the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved reporting Mulvaney’s nomination to the floor by a party-line vote of 8-7. A half-hour later, the Senate Budget Committee backed him 12-11.

"I believe that Congressman Mulvaney is dedicated to restoring fiscal discipline to the federal government and reducing the tremendous burden that regulations place on American families,” said Homeland Security panel Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

Co-panelist Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., blasted Mulvaney for “using brinkmanship” during the 2013 budget stalemate in which the House passed spending cuts “he knew would shut down the government.” Mulvaney “thought brinksmanship was good for the country,” she said. But “we don’t want someone at OMB [like that]. Brinksmanship is not how we do a budget. I’m worried compromise has gone out of fashion.”

Mulvaney was defended by James Lankford, R-Okla., who acknowledged that a shutdown “loses money, costs productivity and is demoralizing to the workforce.” But both parties have produced shutdowns, he added, citing House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s actions during the Reagan administration. “Mick is very passionate about trying to solve problems, and is not just trying to make a point,” Lankford added. “He will say, ‘Here is the fiscal reality, so in 10 years, these are the facts on the table.’ ”

On the Budget panel, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., also criticized Trump’s choice partly due to Mulvaney’s shutdown tactics. “It is deeply irresponsible to use the threat of a government shutdown or debt default as a political bargaining chip, and the across-the-board sequestration cuts that Congressman Mulvaney has supported have hurt our military and allowed lawmakers to avoid making tough budget decisions,” Warner said. “Mulvaney’s continued focus on reducing the size of the federal workforce through attrition makes it clear that he is not committed to thinking strategically about the challenges our federal workers will face in the coming years.”

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., chairman of the Budget Committee, argued Mulvaney will put the country on a “more responsible fiscal path.” The nominee has “focused on how we ultimately stop the federal government from overspending, while continuing to fund the country’s core priorities and responsibilities,” Enzi said in a statement.