Sen. Claire McCaskill pressed Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) on Tuesday at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on what he would do if Trump asked him to issue false data.
McCaskill, who is ranking member of the committee, asked Mulvaney if he would resign in such a situation.
Mulvaney, who is President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, said that he believes “very firmly in real numbers.”
“My job is to tell the President the truth. My job is to tell you the truth,” he said.
“What if he tells you to say something other than the truth. Do you resign at that point?” McCaskill asked.
“I don’t imagine the President of the United States would tell me to lie,” Mulvaney said.
“I beg your pardon!” McCaskill said, raising her voice. “He told Sean Spicer to go out there and say things that were demonstrably untrue.”
“My value in this job is my credibility when it comes to numbers,” Mulvaney said. “I don’t plan on exposing myself to claims of hypocrisy.”
Update at 5:05 p.m.: Johnson ended the hearing by thanking Mulvaney and reiterating his commitment to postpone a markup until the committee has Mulvaney’s FBI background check.
Update at 4:50 p.m.: Mulvaney said that he doesn’t know if he is “in a position to tell the president how to conduct himself” with regard to transparency about Trump’s potential financial conflicts.
Update at 4:38 p.m.: Mulvaney said that he and his colleagues “decided to try and make a point” in 2013 by supporting the bill that led to the government shutdown.
“We passed individual smaller spending bills to open the parks in the various states because we do know, to Senator Hassan’s point, it is real,” he said. “We do recognize that there were impacts in your state and in my state, which is why the House passed a series of smaller bills that would open the federal parks, fund Planned Parenthood, believe it or not.”
Update at 4:29 p.m.: Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) asked Mulvaney how he plans to “ensure that saving entitlements remains a priority” under the new administration.
Mulvaney replied that he plans to “make it a priority” in his discussions with Trump.
“I expect to be having regular conversations with the President, with all the rest of the advisors, about the fiscal impacts of the entitlement programs,” he said. “I see it as my job is to make sure he understands exactly the economic and fiscal ramifications of any of those decisions.”
Update at 4:21 p.m.: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) asked Mulvaney to reconcile Trump’s avowed support for blue-collar workers with his own beliefs about raising the retirement age and cutting domestic spending.
Mulvaney said he is “not familiar” with Trump’s proposals on the matter.
“I’ve read some of the same things you did about the early versions of the budget, but I’ve not been involved with those,” he said. “So I have no idea what the proposals are or even if the reports have been accurate.”
Update at 4:16 p.m.: Hassan asked Mulvaney if he thought funds should be awarded to organizations like Planned Parenthood based on provider service rather than on an ideological or political basis.
“I do believe that money should be allocated based upon an ability to serve patients,” Mulvaney said. “I would point out that the President has said very complimentary things about Planned Parenthood during the campaign except as it comes to the providing of abortion.”
Update at 4:10 p.m.: Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) pressed Mulvaney on the “major impact” of the 2013 shutdown.
“When people actually live through it, it’s not an abstract concept or idea. It really hurts. It hurt our economy. And it hurt a lot of people,” she said. “So do you still really think it was good policy?”
“I don’t believe that shutdown is a strategy. I don’t believe that shutdown is desirable. What I do believe is that sometimes it is an unfortunate result of us not being able to agree,” Mulvaney said. “I look forward to being able to encourage the president not to use that as a tool because it is not an effective tool.”
“It is not only an ineffective tool. It hurts people,” Hassan replied. “I think our job here is not to just refer to it as ‘unfortunate,’ but to acknowledge that it impacts real people.”
Update at 4:06 p.m.: Mulvaney said he is committed to improving the United States’ defenses against cyber attacks.
Update at 4:04 p.m.: Mulvaney reiterated that he believes the retirement age should be raised to 70 for those aged 60 and under. Pressed by Peters as to whether he would advise Trump to raise the age for Medicare eligibility to 67, however, he balked.
“You asked me what I voted for,” he said. “When I come to advise the President, my intention, if you all give me the chance to do so, is to lay out a list of options for the President.”
“I assume when you vote for something, it’s something you believe should be the law of the land,” Peters pressed.
“It is,” Mulvaney said. “I voted for those things and it gets that seal of approval that goes with the vote. But when you are in the policymaking and advising position to the President, I do think you get a chance to lay out more options.”
Update at 3:58 p.m.: Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) asked Mulvaney to explain the difference between the babysitter he hired and the employees at any of the other firms he ran.
“Is the value of the work different?” Peters asked.
“We never considered that a babysitter would fall into that category,” Mulvaney said. He reiterated that the babysitter did not stay over or perform household tasks but “simply” took care of the children.
“Simply taking care of your children really is not something you thought was that valuable or really an employee,” Peters pressed.
“No, sir, it was very valuable,” Mulvaney said. “I just didn’t think it fell into what the IRS clearly does consider to be a household employee.”
Update at 3:48 p.m.: Responding to a question from Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), Mulvaney said that regulatory reform “offers us perhaps the best opportunity” to have an immediate positive effect on the economy.
Update at 3:42 p.m.: Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) asked Mulvaney how he would address medical workforce vacancies within Veterans Affairs given the executive action Trump signed yesterday imposing a federal hiring freeze.
“I’m having a difficult time automatically coming to the conclusion that the best way to make the V.A. more efficient is to hire more people,” Mulvaney said, but said that “there may be circumstances where you can actually provide a more cost effective and efficient government by adding people in certain areas.”
Tester then asked Mulvaney if he supports turning Medicaid into a block grant program.
“I have voted for that,” Mulvaney said. “If there are other ways to find efficiencies and savings in Medicaid I’m more than willing to talk about that.”
Update at 3:34 p.m.: Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) asked Mulvaney how he would respond if he was confirmed to the position and Trump chose to ignore his policy recommendations.
“I don’t think any of us expect, I know I don’t, to have the president agree with me all the time,” Mulvaney replied. “The president may make a decision that I would not have made myself, but I don’t think that prompts one to leave the office.”
Update at 3:27 p.m.: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) grilled Mulvaney on whether he voted to cut the defense budget.
“That I don’t remember,” Mulvaney said.
“I would remember if I voted to cut our defenses the way that you did, Congressman. Maybe you don’t take it with the seriousness that it deserves,” McCain said. “It’s clear from your record that you’ve been an impediment to that for years.”
He went on to question Mulvaney on his support for the appropriations bill that led to the 2013 government shutdown.
“Did you make statements in support of the shutdown during the shutdown?” McCain asked.
“I made statements in support of the House bill to keep the government open,” Mulvaney replied.
“Which you knew would not succeed,” McCain pressed.
“I don’t pretend to know, sir, what the Senate chooses to do,” Mulvaney replied.
Update at 3:17 p.m.: McCaskill asked Mulvaney if he still believed the 2013 government shutdown, which he voted for at the time, was “good policy if it was to make a political point.”
“Yes,” Mulvaney replied, but added that “a government shut down is never a desirable end.”
She pressed Mulvaney on a remark he made in 2010 saying that healthcare is not “a fundamental right,” a comment apparently at odds with Trump’s position.
“Do you agree with the President that we cannot have people with no money not having healthcare?” McCaskill asked.
Mulvaney said that he took those positions as a representative in a “very conservative part of South Carolina.”
“You’re not telling the people of South Carolina you’re going to get more liberal now that you’re working for with President Trump, are you?” McCaskill asked.
“No,” Mulvaney said. “My role is getting ready to change.”
Update at 3:09 p.m.: Mulvaney addressed his past failure to pay payroll taxes at the beginning of the question and answer session, calling it a “mistake.”
“We hired what we considered to be a baby-sitter. It was a young woman who did not live with us, did not teach the children, did not cook or clean. She helped my wife with the children,” he said. “What we have done is notified the IRS. We paid all of the taxes that were outstanding.”
Update at 3:01 p.m.: In addition to her opening statement, McCaskill asked Mulvaney how he planned to clarify Trump’s policies when his own beliefs “do not align with those of the President or other members of the cabinet.”
Mulvaney focused his opening statement on his commitment to addressing the national debt and ending “government waste.”
“For the first time in our history there’s a chance that the next generation is less prosperous than that that preceded it,” he said. “To me and the people in this room I know that is completely unacceptable. We can turn this economy around. We can turn this country around but it’s going to take difficult decisions today in order to avoid taking nearly impossible decisions tomorrow.”
Update at 2:52 p.m.: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) opened the hearing by touting Mulvaney as an “extremely capable and qualified” nominee who “will speak truth to power.”
Committee chair Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) gave an opening statement focused on the 30-year deficit and the “enormous cost” he ascribed to governmental overregulation.
The committee’s ranking member, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), noted that the commitee had not seen Mulvaney’s FBI background check.
“I was told that we would see it last week and then it was moved up to yesterday and then we learned today that it is still not ready. I don’t fault the nominee for this. But it is evidence of a rushed process,” she said. “I look forward to a committment from you that we will not hold a mark-up or a vote on moving forward on this nomination to the full Senate for committee.”
“You can have that commitment. I want to see the FBI file as you do too,” Johnson replied. “We will do our due diligence.”
Original story below:
During his hearing before the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday morning, Mulvaney faced questions about his failure to pay payroll taxes for a babysitter.
He also signaled that he will not fall in line with the President’s positions on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Mulvaney has supported major cuts to all three programs. In 2011, he called to “end Medicare as we know it” and championed proposals to privatize Medicare or impose other major changes to the program. He has described Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” and argued that cutting retirement programs is the only way to “balance the budget.”