More macroeconomics than management at Mulvaney hearings
Two Senate panels grilled President Trump's nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, but the focus was on high-level spending issues rather than the nitty-gritty of governance.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.)
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), a leader of the Tea Party faction in Congress that pushed for a government shutdown over the incept date of the personal mandate in the Affordable Care Act, faced tough questioning from Senate Democrats on Jan. 24 over his fitness to lead the Office of Management and Budget under the Trump administration.
Mulvaney had a long day on Capitol Hill. He was quizzed by lawmakers at two Senate hearings – the Budget Committee in the morning and the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee in the afternoon.
Questioning mostly focused on high policy – taxation, appropriation, budgeting and expenditures. Few members of either party drilled into the issues on the management side of the OMB portfolio.
At the Budget Committee hearing, Virginia Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine pressed Mulvaney on the hiring freeze instituted by President Donald Trump.
Warner asked how the government can "recruit and retain the best workers" when the White House sends "these kind[s] of messages about the value of federal workers on a going-forward basis?" He added, "How will you reinforce that values statement to a workforce that right now is very, very concerned?"
Mulvaney said "the federal government probably could do better in dealing with employees who are exemplary, and better with dealing with employees who fall below our expectations. And all I can say to you is that I look forward to figuring out a way to solve both ends of that problem."
Kaine took aim at the possible impact of the freeze and other actions directed at feds on morale and performance. "How is calling federal employees 'corrupt and beholden to special interests,' freezing any new hiring of federal employment, gathering information about employees who worked on priorities the new president doesn't share and supporting a rule that could target individual employees for massive salary reductions likely to build a high-morale high-performance organization?" he asked.
Mulvaney also took some hits on other fronts. At HSGAC, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) unleashed a blistering line of questioning related to Mulvaney's votes to reduce the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan.
Democrats on both committees grilled Mulvaney about his failure to pay about $15,000 worth of payroll taxes for a nanny.
At HSGAC, Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) wanted assurances that Mulvaney wouldn't be party to presenting "alternative facts" to Congress or the public, or "alter data to fit" the president's narrative.
"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."
Robert Shea, a former associate director at OMB, thought Mulvaney handled the questioning well.
"Congressman Mulvaney displayed he was a straight shooter, committed to the dual OMB missions of budget and management," Shea told FCW in an email. "Though budget is clearly his strength -- he admitted as much -- he nonetheless committed to a strong management focus, particularly as it relates to tackling waste, fraud, and abuse."
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