Live coverage: Trump budget chief faces two Senate panels

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The Hill will be providing live coverage of Rep. Mick Mulvaney’s confirmation hearings to be director of the Office of Management and Budget. The South Carolina Republican will face two Senate Committees today – appearing before the Senate Budget Committee at 10:30 a.m. and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee at 2:30 p.m. 

The Hill will be providing live coverage of Rep. Mick Mulvaney’s confirmation hearings to be director of the Office of Management and Budget. The South Carolina Republican will face two Senate Committees today – appearing before the Senate Budget Committee at 10:30 a.m. and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee at 2:30 p.m. 

Mulvaney’s long day of hearings ends

5:32 p.m. 

Mulvaney’s time in the hot seat ended after hours of testimony before two Senate committees.

The OMB Director nominee looks likely to be confirmed, since it doesn’t appear that many Republicans will vote against him. The possible exception may be McCain, who criticized Mulvaney over his past votes against increases in defense spending.

Meanwhile, Democrats are largely opposed to Mulvaney and attacked him on a variety of issues, including his support for changes to Social Security and Medicare and his criticisms of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Mulvaney promises: ‘My job is to tell you the truth’

5:04 p.m.

In one of the more heated exchanges, McCaskill asked Mulvaney what he would do if Trump asked him to not issue “real data” or asked him to alter it.

“I am worried about data coming out of your shop,” McCaskill said, given that White House press secretary Sean Spicer made false statements to reporters on Saturday about inauguration crowd sizes and Trump told lawmakers Monday that he was denied the popular vote because of millions of illegal votes. 

Mulvaney said he believes “very firmly in real numbers.”

“My job is to tell the president the truth, my job is to tell you the truth.”

He added that he doubted that Trump would tell him to lie.

“I beg your pardon,” McCaskill quickly replied, bringing up Spicer’s comments again. Mulvaney said he wasn’t privy to conversations between Trump and Spicer and thus could not further comment.

McCaskill also asked Mulvaney if he would analyze how new regulations would affect Trump’s businesses and “be transparent” with the public when it appears that Trump would make money off of them.

Mulvaney said he wasn’t familiar with Trump’s businesses. He also said that his “job would be to explain to the president what the general impacts are” rather than looking at how specific businesses would be affected. 


Senate Dems carve out Mulvaney attacks

4:30 p.m.

No sign of broad GOP concern with Mulvaney as an OMB pick, but Democrats are already honing some attacks:







Babysitter v. Nanny?

3:59 p.m.

The crux of Mulvaney’s explanation for his tax issues is a simple question, “When is a nanny a nanny, and when is that person a babysitter?”

Mulvaney’s explanation for failing to pay up to five years of taxes for a household employee is one of misperception. He said that the woman that he hired to help his family raise triplets from birth to school age was seen more as a “babysitter,” rather than a “nanny.” As such, he didn’t think that there were tax implications with her work.

In the fullest exchange on the issue so far today, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) pressed Mulvaney for details on the arrangement, and how it escaped his notice. Mulvaney said he paid this women $400 a week for full-time work helping to raise his children, for roughly three or four years.

And while Mulvaney considered the tax implications of his workers in his private businesses, he said her situation simply escaped his notice.

“It’s easy to say in hindsight that I was wrong. I clearly admit that,” he said. “She did not live with us, my impression of a nanny is someone who stays over.”


Tester becomes first Dem to ask about tax issues

3:47 p.m.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) becomes the first Democratic lawmaker in either hearing to ask Mulvaney about his tax issues.

It had been revealed before the hearing that Mulvaney had failed to pay more than $15,000 in taxes the early 2000s on a household employee. Tester asked Mulvaney how many hours a week the nanny worked for him and how many years she was with Mulvaney’s family.

Mulvaney said the worker was full-time and worked for his family until his kids were old enough to go to school. He said he paid back taxes for five years to be safe.

Despite the fact that unpaid taxes have prevented presidential nominees from taking office in the past, Democrats have not been harping much on the issue during Mulvaney’s hearings.

In the first hearing, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) expressed concerns about the tax issues, but didn’t ask Mulvaney any questions about them.



McCain gets testy 

3:29 p.m. 

Sen. John McCain used his time to sharply question Mulvaney on his past votes on defense spending and government shutdowns. McCain asked about a series of votes he made against increasing military funding and in favor of pulling U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Europe. 


McCaskill hits Mulvaney on entitlement differences with Trump, debt ceiling 

3:08 p.m.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), questioned how Mulvaney could work for Trump given their differences on entitlement reform, and whether he knows what his new job could entail.

McCaskill, ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Mulvaney “has stuck to his principles admirably,” but questioned how a “self described hardcore conservative” could work for a president who opposes entitlement reform and supports massive infrastructure spending.

Democrats have homed in on Mulvaney’s differences with Trump on Social Security and Medicare to pin the president on his campaign promise not to cut from the entitlement programs. 

“We may not have a better understanding of whether those beliefs will have any impact on the president,” said McCaskill of Mulvaney’s fiscal stances.

McCaskill also criticized Mulvaney for opposing debt ceiling increases without spending cuts attached during his House career. She also hit Mulvaney for downplaying the potential impact of the U.S. exceeding the legal debt limit.

She claimed Mulvaney opposed a clean hike because “no one would ever have to find out the consequences of your rhetoric,” knowing that “cooler heads will prevail.”

“The American people and the global economy are in for a rude awakening,” if the debt ceiling is exceeded, said McCaskill. 


Senators want to review Mulvaney’s FBI background check

2:59 p.m.

Mulvaney’s second hearing is beginning at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee. He was introduced again by Sens. Graham and Cotton.

The top Democrat on the panel, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, started her remarks by noting that the committee hasn’t had the opportunity to review Mulvaney’s FBI background check yet.

“I don’t fault the nominee for this, but it is evidence of a rushed process,” she said, and hoped that the committee wouldn’t vote on Mulvaney’s nomination until senators get to review the background check.

The committee’s chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) agreed not to hold a vote until after the panel gets the background check. “I want to see the FBI file,” he said. 

One down, one to go

1:38 p.m.

The Senate Budget Committee just wrapped up its questioning of Mulvaney. After roughly three hours of questions, there is little sign of Republican concern over the pick. Meanwhile, Democrats have been eager to draw contrasts between the Tea Party lawmaker’s hard line on overhauling entitlement programs with President Trump’s campaign vows to leave them alone.



Mulvaney will be back up for a second hearing at 2:30 p.m., this time before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Mulvaney calls consumer bureau “worst kind of government entity”

1:31 p.m.

Mulvaney is no fan of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a lawmaker, and is making no effort to hide that fact as he tries to become the next OMB Director.

Asked by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) about prior criticisms of the agency, Mulvaney didn’t give an inch.

“Do you still believe the CFPB is a sad, sick joke?” asked Merkley.

“Yes, sir, I do,” replied Mulvaney.

Mulvaney, who sits on the House Financial Services Committee overseeing the CFPB, went on paint the bureau as a huge bureaucracy burying smaller institutions in a host of regulations, calling it the “very worst kind of government entity.”

And he reiterated longstanding GOP gripes about its structure, as it is run by a single director, Richard Cordray.

“They’re run by essentially a one-person dictator,” he said. “I’ve probably had more complaints about the CFPB in my office, from small local banks and credit agencies, than every other government agency put together.”

Since it opened its doors in 2011, the CFPB has been one of the most partisan issues on the Hill. Democrats are quick to point out that it has recouped billions of dollars for consumers done wrong by financial companies, while Republcians have repeatedly tried to overhaul the agency and clip its wings.

For now, Cordray insists he will stay on as the agency’s director until his term expires in the middle of 2018. But Republicans are looking for any and all ways to remove him from that post.


Murray presses Mulvaney on spending cuts

1:12 p.m.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) pressed Mulvaney on The Hill’s report that Trump’s team is working on a budget that could result in $10.5 trillion in spending cuts over a decade.

Murray said that she has concerns that “we are headed right back to more Tea Party extremism and ideological purity.”

She also said she’s outraged that the cuts Trump is considering are based on a blueprint that would “eliminate the funding for the Violence Against Women Act.”

Mulvaney said he has read reports about spending cuts but is “not familiar” with the details of the budgets and hasn’t been allowed to see them.

Murray said she’s still bothered by comments Trump made in 2005 about groping women and she’s concerned that the cuts would “double down on that type of behavior.” She asked Mulvaney if he would commit to opposing funding cuts for programs that help protect women from violence.

Mulvaney said his commitment is to try to “advise the president to the best of my ability and then enforce the policies that he sets.”

Murray said she doesn’t think that $10.5 trillion can be cut from the budget “without having serious impact.”

Mulvaney toes hard line on debt limit

1:07 p.m.

Mulvaney is not backing away from his harder-line stance on the debt limit.

The Tea Party lawmaker, who has voted against debt limit increases in the past, was asked by several committee Democrats about his stance on the nation’s borrowing cap.

For his part, Mulvaney did not back away from his previous stances. For example, he said he believed the federal government would be able to prioritize its payments should it no longer be allowed to borrow — an approach that was fiercely criticized by the Treasury Department under former President Obama.

However, he did add that it is “undesirable to get to a situation…where this is a relevant conversation.”

Later in the hearing, Mulvaney was asked by Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) if he would urge President Trump to raise the debt ceiling if confirmed as OMB Director.

Mulvaney hedged, saying he would “I will counsel the president as to the ramifications of raising the debt ceiling or not raising the debt ceiling.”

Mulvaney’s remarks stand in contrast to another man tapped to hold a key economic post in the Trump administration.

In his confirmation hearing Thursday, Treasury nominee Steven Mnuchin emphasized the critical need to raise the borrowing cap in a prompt fashion, and underlined the severe risks of failing to do so. He also downplayed the possibility of prioritizing payments across the federal government, echoing a message sent by Treasury Secretaries of the past.

The nation’s borrowing cap is currently suspended until March 16. When it again takes effect, the Treasury Department will be able to free up room under that cap for a few months before the government would miss a payment.


Virginia Senators grill Mulvaney on federal workers

12:27 p.m.

Virginia’s two Democratic senators grilled Mulvaney on his position on the treatment of federal workers, one day after Trump announced a federal government hiring freeze.

Sen. Tim Kaine, who had been the Democratic nominee for vice president, said that Trump had said during the campaign that a hiring freeze would be necessary to reduce corruption and special interests.

“Why would there be an assumption that people coming to work with the Trump administration would come with corruption or special-interest collusion problems?” Kaine asked.

Mulvaney said he didn’t think there was “an assumption hard-wired into any system that federal workers are corrupt.”

Kaine said that he is concerned that a hiring freeze would further backlogs in processing Social Security disability claims and veteran’s benefit claims. Mulvaney said he doesn’t think it is necessarily true that hiring more workers will make things more efficient.

Kaine also expressed concerns about the House passing a rule package that would allow lawmakers to cut federal workers’ salaries to as low as $1 a year.

Mulvaney said he supports “some application” of that rule “in some circumstances.”

Kaine asked how recent actions of the administration and Congress relating to federal workers likely to build morale.

Mulvaney said the rhetoric “taps into a concern” that “there are federal workers who don’t live up to our expectations.” But he also said that “any time you paint with a broad brush, you run risk of going outside the lines.”

Earlier in the hearing, Virginia’s other senator, Mark Warner, asked about the fact that the federal workforce relative to the size of the U.S. population has “declined dramatically” over the past few decades.

Mulvaney said he wasn’t aware of that data. He later added that “the federal government could do better with dealing with employees who are exemplary, and better with dealing with employees who fall below our expectations.”

Mulvaney: No-new-taxes pledge doesn’t apply to OMB

12:00 p.m.

Mulvaney said if he’s confirmed to be OMB director, he wouldn’t feel obligated to follow a campaign pledge made by dozens of Republican lawmakers to not approve new taxes.

Mulvaney, like many GOP colleagues, signed Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge as a representative. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) asked Mulvaney he’d abandon the pledge to help save entitlement programs from going bankrupt.

“If you’re going to be willing to take a look at revenues on Social Security or revenues in terms of tax reform,” asked Warner, “are you going to be able to remain faithful to that taxpayer protection pledge?”

Mulvaney said he “will not be bound” by the pledge since it only applies to members of elected office.

“What I will be bound to is telling the president the truth, and telling him what I believe his options to be,” said Mulvaney.


Mulvaney: No cuts to current beneficiaries

11:36 a.m.

Mulvaney is eagerly shooting down the notion that current beneficiaries of programs like Social Security and Medicare would see benefit cuts on his watch.

Under an accommodating set of questions from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Mulvaney took the opportunity to make clear that any reforms he would push for such programs would be squarely aimed at future beneficiares with time to adjust, not current seniors relying on those checks.

“No proposal that I would take to the president, should I be confirmed, would suggest I touch those folks,” he said. “I’m not making my parents go back to work. They’re 74 years old.”

Mulvaney is endeavoring to push back against the repeated attack from Democrats, who argue that as OMB head, Mulvaney would push to reduce those benefits for millions of Americans.

Several Democrats on the committee have already pressed Mulvaney on whether benefits could be reduced under those programs. While he has stuck to his guns on the need for reforms, Mulvaney also is underlining that it would apply to future beneficiaries with time to adjust.


Mulvaney says he’ll support defense spending boost, but push Trump on entitlements 

11:32 a.m.

Mulvaney committed to raising defense spending, but also said he’d push President Trump to reform entitlement programs he promised not to cut during the campaign.

Mulvaney, a budget hawk, said he’d support Trump’s pledge to increase the size of the military with additional spending, despite his House career opposing major boosts to defense spending. 

Trump said he wants to expand the U.S. Navy to 350 ships, the largest buildup since the Cold War, which would cost $165 billion over 30 years, according to experts. With a defense budget of $619 billion, that would be impossible to do without a massive spike in military spending. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a defense hawk who introduced Mulvaney at the Tuesday hearing, asked Trump’s budget pick to commit to supporting increased military personnel spending, which is about 50 percent of defense spending. 

Graham also asked Mulvaney to help keep benefits programs for military members “generous, but sustainable,” and Mulvaney agreed. Mulvaney has long pushed for cuts to Social Security and Medicaid, but Trump campaigned on a promise not to reduce entitlement benefits.

Later, Graham pressed Mulvaney on whether he’d push Trump to reform Social Security and Medicare, the  federal government’s most expensive expenditure. 

“So we’re living longer, there are fewer workers, and more people are retiring,” said Graham. “Will you tell President Trump that if he ignores that, he will never get us out of debt?”

“Yes, sir,” said Mulvaney.


Sanders highlights Trump-Mulvaney gap on entitlements

11:17 a.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is trying to build a gulf between Mulvaney and President Trump.

Sanders, the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, has focused much of his efforts so far in the hearing to highlighting the difference between Trump’s prior comments on blocking cuts to entitlement programs, and Mulvaney’s repeated work to do just that.

“We have a president who ran on a set of principles that he would not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and yet he is nominating someone who’s views are very, very different,” he said to open his questioning of Mulvaney.

For his part, Mulvaney did not back away from his prior efforts, saying that as OMB Director, he would deliver a similar message to the president that the programs need to be overhauled going forward.

“The only thing I know to do is tell the president the truth,” he said.



However, Mulvaney did step away from one prior action. Sanders said that as a member of the South Carolina state legislature, Mulvaney support a measure that declared Social Security and Medicare unconstitutional. Mulvaney disavowed that action Tuesday.

“I don’t remember the vote,” he said. “As I sit here, I will not be arguing to the President of the United States that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional.”


Mulvaney on his taxes: “We made a mistake in my family” 

11:12 a.m.

Mulvaney defended himself when asked about his past failure to pay taxes, saying it was a mistake that he is fixing.

The nominee said that when he and his wife had triplets in 2000, they hired someone whom he viewed as a babysitter and didn’t consider to be a “household employee.”

Mulvaney said he didn’t think of the matter again until shortly after he was nominated to be OMB director, at which time it was “immediately clear to me that I made a mistake.” He said notified the transition team and worked with his accountant to remedy the issue.

“We made a mistake in my family, and as soon as it was brought to my attention, I did the only thing I knew to do,” he said.

The question about Mulvaney’s taxes came from Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who noted that there have been other nominees in the past who had failed to pay some taxes and were confirmed.


Mulvaney introduced by defense hawks

10:54 a.m.

Mulvaney was introduced by a pair of senators — Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). Both are Republicans with a personal history with Mulvaney. But more significantly, they’re both defense hawks.

Mulvaney established his conservative bona fides in Washington by drawing a hard line on fiscal matters. But some have wondered how that perspective might conflict with fellow Republicans, including the president, who are eager to pump new funds into the defense sector — or at least avoid further cuts.

Having both Graham and Cotton, well established defense defenders, vouching for Mulvaney at the start could be a nod towards easing those concerns.

Sanders: Mulvaney’s views are “way out of touch”

10:51 a.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member on the Budget Committee, blasted Mulvaney in his opening remarks, saying that the nominee’s views are “way out of touch” with the preferences of the American people and the issues President Trump campaigned on.

Sanders said that one of the “cornerstones” of Trump’s campaign was that he promised not to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

But Mulvaney’s views on those programs are “are exactly opposite of what Trump campaigned on,” the former Democratic presidential candidate said.



Sanders also criticized Mulvaney for failing to pay more than $15,000 on taxes for a household employee from 2000 to 2004. “This is a serious issue,” the senator said.

Sanders said he agrees with comments from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that “if failure to pay taxes was disqualifying for Democratic nominees, then the same should be true for Republican nominees.”

Mulvaney: Debt “must be addressed sooner, rather than later”

10:22 a.m.

Mulvaney’s first hearing of the day is expected to start shortly in a crowded hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. In his opening remarks to the Senate Budget Committee, he is expected to focus on the need to reduce the $20 trillion national debt. 

“I believe, as a matter of principle, that the debt is a problem that must be addressed sooner, rather than later,” he wrote in his prepared remarks. “I also know that fundamental changes are needed in the way Washington spends and taxes if we truly want a healthy economy.”

Part of addressing the debt problem will involve “taking a hard look at government waste…and then ending it,” Mulvaney will say. He also will say that “a strong, healthy economy allows us to protect our most vulnerable.”

GOP Senators Lindsey Graham (S.C.) Tom Cotton (Ark.) are slated to introduce Mulvaney.

Tags Angus King Bernie Sanders Chuck Schumer Claire McCaskill Elizabeth Warren Jeff Merkley John McCain Jon Tester Lindsey Graham Mark Warner Mike Enzi Patty Murray Ron Johnson Tim Kaine Tom Cotton
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