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Mulvaney: I told Congress to get spending under control, and it 'pounded the hell out of me'
Mick Mulvaney isn't a recent convert to fiscal sanity. He pushed it in Congress, and he's pushing it now as OMB director in the Trump Administration.
But he is new to the experience of coming at it from the executive branch, and he couldn't have been surprised when Congress responded to pleas for taxing/spending common sense as Congress usually does.
I would have expected that one reason for Mulvaney's appointment was that he would be expecting Congress's resistance to fiscal sanity, and would be uniquely positioned because of his experience there to successfully push back against it. Apparently that is not the plan at the White House:
President Trump has, for now, given up on balancing the federal budget in the next ten years – and Congress is to blame, his budget director said Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters that legislators “didn’t make any of the large structural changes” he said last year were needed if the administration were to have a chance of reining in the federal deficit.
At his confirmation hearing in January 2017, Mulvaney called for “fundamental changes” in the way “Washington spends and taxes.”
Instead of following his advice, Mulvaney said Monday, Congress “pounded the hell out of me.”
Unlike last year’s budget plan, the fiscal 2019 blueprint unveiled by the Trump administration on Monday does not seek to balance the budget over the next decade.
Combined with a newly passed spending deal and sweeping tax cuts, the budget would see the federal deficit once again rising past $1 trillion in the near-term.
I am not one of those who thinks there is no appetite within the Republican legislative caucuses to really cut spending. Mulvaney has been serious about it for years and I think, if it was entirely up to him, he would reshape the federal budget in a radical way.
But what always happens is that Republicans weigh the imperative to cut spending against the reality of what would happen if they really waged a political fight on the issue, and they decide that for now it's not a fight they can win.
And there is always some seemingly more urgent priority that Republican presidents don't want to lose by picking a fight with a Republican Congress over spending. Bush wanted support for the War on Terror. Trump wants money for the military and the wall. Pick a fight over spending, you probably lose both the spending fight and the other things you want..
You often hear from Republican leaders that they don't want to do this without bipartisan support, and it's hard to say for sure if that's an excuse or willful delusion, since there will never be a time when Democrats get on board with spending cuts of any kind.
This is very much the product of where the electorate is, and the realization of Republicans that the public isn't demanding massive cuts to the size and scope of the federal government. You have a few true believers in Congress who would risk their careers to cut spending, but most are going to go along with the thinking of their districts, and there simply aren't enough districts - or states - where the voters by and large want what conservative spending hawks want.
That said, I would have expected an OMB director like Mulvaney to push back a little harder than this. Ultimately Trump chooses the hills to die on, and we all know Trump will mix it up when the issue is important enough to him. If a convention-busting president like Trump is willing to give up this easily on balancing the budget because Congress would rather not, then I'm not sure who's ever going to do it.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!