The Insider

Senate moving to advance Mulvaney as White House budget chief

February 15, 2017 |
Tony Bertuca

The Senate is set to move forward today with the process to confirm Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) as the next chief of the White House Office of Management and Budget, but a final vote is not expected until Thursday, after 30 hours of debate forced by Democrats who oppose his nomination.

Mulvaney's nomination has also been scrutinized by Republicans who advocate increased defense spending, as he is a prominent deficit hawk and Tea Party member who has voted to cut military funding in the past and supports eliminating the Pentagon’s Overseas Contingency Operations fund.

As OMB chief, Mulvaney would be highly influential in crafting the federal budget in coordination with government agencies, including the Defense Department. Mulvaney's arrival at OMB would come as DOD is crafting a fiscal year 2017 supplemental budget request as well as building its FY-18 budget submission.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ), who is angling to increase defense spending by an additional $90 billion in fiscal year 2018, has said he is considering opposing Mulvaney's nomination.

"You've spent your entire congressional career pitting the debt against our military," McCain said during a Jan. 24 hearing. "I am deeply concerned about your lack of support of our military."

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has also criticized Mulvaney for his past positions on military spending as well as his statements in support of government shutdowns.

"I don't think it's a good idea to have somebody running the Office of Management and Budget who thinks it's a good idea to default on our obligations," she said. "I don't think it's ever a good idea to have somebody running the Office of Management and Budget who has demonstrated a willingness to not fund our military to the extent that we must fund it in order to protect our nation."

Mulvaney, however, has said he supports increased defense spending, but said he would advocate paying for it with cuts to non-defense discretionary spending. Analysts say such a stance amounts to a defense cut because Democrats will refuse to cooperate.

But Mulvaney has said he will do "whatever the president asks me to do" if Trump settles on a different policy.