Senate Democrats are calling for President Donald Trump's pick for director of Office of Management and Budget, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), to be disqualified over his track record of supporting cuts to safety net programs.
Mulvaney, appearing Tuesday before the Senate Budget Committee, acknowledged that his stance on government spending contradicted Trump's campaign promises not to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
But, he said, "My job … is to be completely and brutally honest with him."
That did not sit well with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the committee's ranking member, whose 2016 presidential campaign centered around pledges not to cut those programs.
The Washington Post reports:
Mulvaney would bring a stridently hawkish voice to the Office of Management and Budget. On Tuesday, he said he remains in favor of raising the retirement age for Social Security and reiterated his support for means-testing to qualify for Medicare. Democratic lawmakers voiced concerns that Mulvaney's nomination signaled that Trump was backing away from his promise to leave the programs unchanged.
"The idea and opinions of Mr. Mulvaney are way out of touch," Sanders said. "And more importantly, they are way, way out of touch with what President Trump campaigned on."
"One of the cornerstones of his campaign was that he was not going to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And he wasn't ambiguous about this," he said.
Sanders later tweeted, "I'm very concerned Rep. Mulvaney's nomination means Trump doesn't intend to keep promises to not cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid," noting several instances in which the South Carolina Republican went on the record as wanting to slash funding for the programs and raise the retirement age.
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In one instance, Mulvaney said House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), an outspoken opponent of entitlement programs, didn't plan to gut them "rapidly enough."
In May 2009, Mulvaney voted in the South Carolina State Senate for an amendment declaring Social Security and Medicaid unconstitutional.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 24, 2017
Aug. 1, 2011, Mulvaney said: “You have to raise the retirement age, lower a pay out...cannot leave [Social Security] the way that it is.”— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 24, 2017
Mulvaney also admitted to evading paying federal taxes for his childcare provider several years ago, claiming he did not consider his family's nanny to be a household employee.
"In 2000, we had triplets. When they came home, we hired someone to help my wife take care of the children. In our minds, she was a babysitter. She did not live with us. She did not spend the night there," he said. "She did not cook. She did not clean. She did not educate the children, she helped my wife with the kids."
He added that he has since paid the missing taxes.
Senate Democrats, led by Charles Schumer of New York, said the lapse is enough to disqualify Mulvaney.
But Republicans, who are strong enough in number to confirm Mulvaney on their own, refused to withdraw their support for the South Carolina lawmaker.
Mulvaney also said he supported increasing defense spending, which Politico termed an "olive branch to Pentagon boosters."