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Mulvaney defends Trump budget before Congress

Mulvaney defends Trump budget before Congress
© Greg Nash

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Wednesday defended President Trump’s budget proposal to a House panel, arguing its steep cuts were necessary to reduce the country’s deficits.

“Great countries are not destroyed from without. They rot from within,” he said to the House Budget Committee.

Trump’s plan would balance the budget by 2027 and reduce the national debt to 60 percent of gross domestic product, but Democrats and Republicans alike noted that it relies on optimistic economic growth figures and other budgetary tricks to reach those figures.

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Democrats homed in on the aggressive cuts to Medicaid, food stamps and Social Security Disability Insurance, among other programs. Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package Budget Committee chair pledges to raise minimum wage: 'Hold me to it' MORE (D-Ky.), the House Budget Committee’s ranking member, called it “shockingly extreme, the antithesis of what the American people say they want from their government.”

Mulvaney pushed back, insisting that the cuts came solely from ironing out inefficiencies in the programs and ensuring able-bodied people work.

“We are not going to kick any deserving person off of any meaningful program,” he vowed. One wasteful welfare program, he added, had been paid out to 11,000 deceased recipients.

Yarmuth also asked why the same level of scrutiny wasn’t applied to defense, which would get a boost from the Trump budget. Mulvaney said he was just as interested at rooting out waste from the Pentagon and expected an audit from the Defense Department this September.

While Republicans emphasized their support for debt reduction, several bore down on program cuts that they said were unjustified.

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) called Mulvaney out for cuts to the Appalachian Regional Commission, a program that has supported distressed counties.

Johnson argued it was an effective program and that the Government Accountability Office report saying it was wasteful was more than 20 years old.

“I think that 1996 study is probably outdated,” he said.

Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) asked similarly tough questions on the administration’s plans for the Federal Aviation Authority.

At one point, a lively discussion broke out over Big Bird and the merits of funding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which for many years funded Sesame Street.

Mulvaney said that Big Bird was likely wealthier than anyone in the room, and his success showed that the show, which was recently acquired by HBO, didn’t need public funding to thrive.

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) said that as a billionaire, Big Bird would be happy for the major tax break the Trump budget would deliver.

“Big Bird does get a fairly large tax cut, and we want him to,” Mulvaney shot back. Cuts for corporations, he said, helped unleash the kind of creativity that led to the creation of Big Bird in the first place.

Following the exchange, the term “Big Bird” trended on Twitter.