President-Elect Donald Trump is sending a clear message with his pick for White House budget director, saying that he wants one of the most outspoken fiscal conservatives in Congress to take the post. Trump announced on Saturday he will nominate Rep. Mick Mulvaney from South Carolina to head the Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney, who arrived in Congress as part of the Tea Party wave elected in 2010, is one of the co-founders of the House Freedom Caucus, which battled with the Republican leadership in Congress over spending and pushed the resignation of then-House Speaker John Boehner.
“We are going to do great things for the American people with Mick Mulvaney,” Trump said in a statement. “Right now we are nearly $20 trillion in debt, but Mick is a very high-energy leader with deep convictions for how to responsibly manage our nation’s finances and save our country from drowning in red ink.”
The lawmaker from South Carolina has long advocated for a constitutional amendment to balance the budget and was one of the drivers of the effort to defund Obamacare that led to a 16-day government shutdown in 2013. It seems that government shutdown will play a key role in confirmation hearings. “The one problem I would have with him is I know that when we shut the government down a few years ago, he was one who said that it’s OK to shut the government down,” Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth, who will be the top Democrat in the House Budget Committee next year, said in a C-Span interview. “I’d like to hear him in confirmation hearings say one of the directives of a budget director is to avoid shutting the government down, and avoid defaulting on the national debt.”
Mulvaney initially supported Sen. Rand Paul for the Republican nomination but ended up endorsing Trump in June. On Saturday, Mulvaney said the Trump administration “will restore budgetary and fiscal sanity back in Washington after eight years of an out-of-control, tax-and-spend financial agenda.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan may have had skirmishes with Mulvaney in the past but the two have largely had a friendly relationship and on Saturday he called him “the absolte right choice” to lead the Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney won reelection in November so if he’s confirmed there will have to be a special election to fill his congressional seat.
Even as he intends to appoint one of Washington’s most high-profile fiscal hawks to be his budget chief, Trump on Friday night said he would seek the green light from Congress to spend $1 trillion to rebuild the country’s infrastructure. “We are going to fix our country. It’s time. We have no choice. It’s time,” Trump said in Orlando. Adding Mulvaney to his administration could be a way for Trump to ease rising concern from fiscal conservatives about his administration’s spending plans.