Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney—previously a House GOPer known for being a budget hawk—kept the door open for President Donald Trump approving of some kind of overhaul of Medicare or Social Security.
Referencing the proposal oft-floated by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to privatize Medicare by transforming it into what’s known as “premium support,” Mulvaney told CNBC’s John Harwood that his “guess is the House will do either that or something similar to that.”
Harwood brought up Trump’s campaign pledge not to touch Medicare and asked whether he would veto it.
“That’s not a really conducive way to sort of maintain a relationship between the executive and the administrative branch,” Mulvaney said. “Let them pass that and let’s talk about it.”
Earlier in the interview, Harwood mentioned that congressional Republicans like Ryan were hopeful that they could change Trump’s mind on cutting social benefit programs.
“We’re working on it right now,” Mulvaney, who has a long history of seeking to privatize Medicaid, said, referencing Trump. “He went through the list and said, ‘No, that’s Social Security. That violates my promise. Take that off. That’s Medicare. That violates my promise. Take that off.'”
Asked about whether the Social Security disability program was off limits, Mulvaney added, “I don’t think we’ve settled yet.”
“But I continue to look forward to talking to the president about ways to fix that program. Because that is one of the fastest growing programs that we have,” Mulvaney said. “It’s become effectively a long-term unemployment, permanent unemployment program.”
In addition to being a budget hawk, Mulvaney, as a House representative from South Carolina, was also a prominent member of the Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative hardliners known for pushing for government shutdowns and other financial crises when they don’t get their way.
Harwood mentioned Mulvaney’s former membership in the so-called “shutdown caucus” and asked him the chances of a government shutdown this month, when the most recent funding bill expires.
“Shut-down is never a desired end,” Mulvaney said, while playing down the consequences of a lapse in funding.
“I think the government, if you measure it in terms of the dollars out the door, about 83% of the government stays open in a government shut-down,” Mulvaney said. “Social Security checks go out, military still exists. The FBI still chases bad guys. I think the consequences have been blown out of proportion.”