Mulvaney on government spending: 'At least I'm losing at the very highest levels'

Mulvaney on government spending: 'At least I'm losing at the very highest levels'
© Greg Nash

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran Acting DHS secretary threatened to quit after clashing with Miller: report On The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada MORE conceded the Trump administration has not always delivered on its promise to slash the size of government, but compared himself favorably to his predecessor, John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE.

In an interview with The Atlantic published Thursday, the former Tea Party Republican congressman said he knows the administration is “spending a bunch of money on stuff we’re not supposed to” and said he gets grief about it from some of his former colleagues who have “accused me of ‘losing.’ ”

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“Yeah, but at least I’m losing at the very highest levels,” Mulvaney said, responding to remarks from House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - After GOP infighting, Trump Jr. agrees to testify again On The Money: House chairman issues subpoenas for Trump's tax returns | Trump touts trade talks as China, US fail to reach deal | Five things to know about Trump's trade war with China | GOP offers support for Trump on tariffs GOP offers support for Trump on China tariffs MORE (R-N.C.) who once accused him of "losing" after the Trump administration signed a sweeping spending package.

The national debt hit a record $22 trillion earlier this year, in part due to falling tax revenue under President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE’s tax law. And Congress has virtually ignored Trump’s budgets that call for large cuts in domestic spending and certain foreign assistance.

Mulvaney said he has nonetheless found success in the White House by loosening some of the strict rules imposed by Kelly, the retired Marine Corps general who left his post as chief of staff in December after a rocky tenure.

“When I got here, morale wasn’t what it needed to be,” Mulvaney said. “I don’t think I’m telling any secrets — John hated the job. And let everybody know.”

Kelly famously groused about the job of serving as Trump’s chief of staff, both publicly and privately, even as he acknowledged it was an important duty.

“It was the least enjoyable job I’ve ever had,” he said last month during a speech at Duke University. “But it was the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Mulvaney brushed off the fact he is still serving in an acting capacity, saying of Trump “he could fire any of us tomorrow. So what difference does it make if you’re ‘acting’ or ‘permanent’?”