Rep. Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump’s choice to direct the Office of Management and Budget, wooed Republicans during his testimony Tuesday on Capitol Hill, while Democrats voiced unease with his fiscal conservatism and past personal tax issues.
At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee, the South Carolina Republican vowed, if confirmed, to push to reduce the nation’s debt, reform entitlement programs and end wasteful spending.
“I believe as a matter of principle that the debt is a problem that must be addressed sooner rather than later,” Mulvaney, a founding member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, said in his opening remarks. “I also know that fundamental changes are necessary in the way Washington spends and taxes if we truly want a healthy economy.”
Mulvaney also offered an explanation for how he failed to pay more than $15,000 in taxes for a nanny from 2000 to 2004. Similar tax problems have sunk nominees to previous administrations.
Mulvaney is also scheduled to testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee later today. Here are the highlights from the Budget Committee hearing:
- Mulvaney explained that he did not know the Internal Revenue Service considered his nanny to be a household employee, and said he corrected the mistake once he learned of it. “We paid the taxes, also notified the IRS about what we were doing and why and then I told everybody on this committee,” he said.
- Mulvaney said Trump’s campaign promise to not cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid would not affect how he plans to advise Trump on budgetary matters. “The only thing I know to do is to tell the president the truth, and the truth is that if we do not reform these programs … I believe in nine or 10 years the Medicaid trust fund is empty. In roughly 17 to 18 years the Social Security trust fund is empty.”
- Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member on the panel, pressed Mulvaney on his support as a state legislator for an amendment that declared Social Security unconstitutional. Mulvaney answered, “I do not believe that Social Security or Medicare are unconstitutional,” and said, “I will not be arguing to the president of the United States that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional.”
- Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) asked Mulvaney to clarify his past remark calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme. “What I described it as is a plan that takes money from people now in order to give money to people. … I wouldn’t read too much into the description of it as a Ponzi scheme,” Mulvaney replied.