The Senate voted 51-49 to confirm Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina as the government’s new budget chief Thursday, less than two weeks before the president is expected to present a pared-down “skinny” budget to Congress at the end of the month.
Mulvaney, known as a fiscal hard-liner, was confirmed despite the opposition of Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who cited the South Carolina Republican’s inability to remember voting for a defense spending cut when questioned at his confirmation hearing.
Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, who’s emerging as perhaps the most vocal critic of the Trump administration, opposed Mulvaney for past House votes supporting cuts to Pentagon spending.
“Mulvaney has spent his last six years in the House of Representatives pitting the national debt against our military,” said McCain, the Armed Services Committee chairman.
Democrats opposed Mulvaney over his support for curbing the growth of Medicare and Social Security and other issues, such as his brinksmanship as a freshman lawmaker during the 2011 debt crisis in which the government came uncomfortably close to defaulting on U.S. obligations.
“He said to me in a one-on-one meeting how he would prioritize the debts he would pay if he defaulted on the debt,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. “Wouldn’t that be a great addition to the chaos we are all feeling right now?”
Mulvaney’s confirmation promises to accelerate work on Trump’s upcoming budget plan, which is overdue. That’s typical at the beginning of an administration. But there is also the need to complete more than $1 trillion in unfinished spending bills for the ongoing budget year, as well as transmit Trump’s request for a quick start on his oft-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall and tens of billions of dollars in emergency cash for the military.
Mulvaney also faced questions during two confirmation hearings about failing to pay federal taxes on a babysitter he had employed in 2000 until after his nomination in mid-December, which he said was a mistake he rectified when it was brought to his attention. Senate committee members still voted along party lines to advance his nomination to the full chamber.
Mulvaney has represented South Carolina’s 5th congressional district since 2011 and is expected to resign his position when he is sworn in, setting up a crowded Republican primary for his seat.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.