House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. left, and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney arrive for a meeting on Capitol Hill in March.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. left, and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney arrive for a meeting on Capitol Hill in March. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

OMB Director: Shutdown Consequences Have Been ‘Blown Out of Proportion’

White House says it wants to avoid a budget showdown but insists that its priorities be funded.

Lawmakers have a little more than two weeks to reach an agreement on how to fund government and avoid a shutdown, though President Trump’s budget director is shrugging off such an outcome as inconsequential.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney advocated for a government shutdown as “good policy” during his time in Congress. Even during his confirmation process, Mulvaney said in written testimony he still believed that to be the case. The former congressman has changed his tune to some degree, but still argues that an appropriations lapse would be inconsequential.

“Shutdown is never a desired end,” Mulvaney told CNBC on Wednesday. He said he thought the odds of one happening were “very low.” Agencies have not yet begun preparing for a shutdown and the budget director said he sees no need for them to do so. The most recent OMB guidance mandates the agency hold a teleconference with government leaders to instruct them to review and update their shutdown plans one week prior to a potential appropriations lapse.

Mulvaney added that if a shutdown were to occur, about 83 percent of government dollars would still go out the door.

“Social Security checks go out, military still exists,” he said. “The FBI still chases bad guys. I think the consequences have been blown out of proportion.”

While leadership on both sides of the aisle in Congress have maintained they have no interest in shutting down the government and said negotiators are working toward an omnibus bill to fund agencies through September, the White House has left the door open for shuttering agencies by insisting that lawmakers pay for Trump’s priorities such as the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last week, Mulvaney told Real Clear Politics, “What we’re focusing on is simply getting our priorities funded.”

Trump has asked for an extra $30 billion for the Defense Department to spend by Sept. 30—the end of fiscal 2017—and $3 billion for the Homeland Security Department. The DHS money would go toward the wall and a ramp up in border security and immigration enforcement. Democrats have threatened to shut down the government if the spending bill includes appropriations for those issues. Senate Republicans appear to have capitulated to the threat, indicating they would deal with the administration’s supplemental request separately from the regular appropriations bill.

In March, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer rejected the idea that keeping government open and funding the president’s priorities were “mutually exclusive.”

“Obviously, we don’t want the government to shut down, “ Spicer said, “but we want to make sure that we’re funding the priorities of the government.”

And if a shutdown does occur, the White House is already looking to defer blame.

“It takes three to tango, the House, the Senate and the White House,” Mulvaney told NBC. “And if they can't agree, you have a lapse in funding.”