The Senate Budget Committee and the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Jan. 24 held confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.). In both hearings, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) testified on Rep. Mulvaney’s behalf.
In his opening statements, Rep. Mulvaney stated, “Fundamental changes are necessary in the way Washington spends and taxes, if we truly want a healthy economy. This must include changing our government’s long term fiscal path, which is unsustainable ... [P]art of that also means taking a hard look at government waste and ending it.”
During the Budget hearing, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) stated, "America has made big scientific breakthroughs for decades because federal funding allows scientists to pursue research that businesses would not fund because they have no immediate commercial application. Breakthroughs from federally funded curiosity-driven research have not only created new business, but entire new industries." When asked if he agreed, Rep. Mulvaney indicated his support, noting that “the private sector would not go in because of the circumstance of time.”
Sen. Harris also asked Rep. Mulvaney about his position on federally funded research, leading Rep. Mulvaney to explain, “Generally, I do believe that there is a proper role for the federal government in research.” She then asked Rep. Mulvaney if he believed that government funded research should be a priority. Rep. Mulvaney responded, in certain circumstances, “I believe that when we look at grant programs like the one that you just mentioned, the key is not the amount of the grant to begin with, but what we're getting for the taxpayer dollars.”
In a separate exchange during the Homeland Security hearing, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) inquired if increases in defense spending should be offset with decreases in non-defense discretionary spending. Rep. Mulvaney replied, “I have voted regularly and plan to advise the president that the best possible route forward is to raise the top line defense number and of course have reductions in the non-defense discretionary.”
Both Republicans and Democrats asked how his perspective differs from President Trump on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, referring to an Aug. 10 campaign event where President Trump stated, “I will save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts, we have to do it.” When pressed by Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Mulvaney stated, “The truth is that if we do not reform these programs that are so important to your constituents in Vermont to mine in South Carolina, I believe in 9 or 10 years, the Medicaid trust fund is empty and roughly 17 or 18 years the Social Security trust fund is empty.”
Both the Senate Budget Committee and the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee have jurisdiction over the confirmation of OMB Director and Deputy Director. Procedurally, if one committee reports to confirm the nominee, the other must report within 30 calendar days or be automatically discharged. Neither have scheduled further action at this time.