WASHINGTON: It’s an intriguing scenario. Senate Democrats join with GOP defense lawmakers to derail the nomination of Rep. Mick Mulvaney to be the powerful director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
It felt possible today as Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, pressed Mulvaney on whether he would support Trump’s pledge to expand the military during a nomination hearing at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee today.
“Maybe you don’t take it with the seriousness that it deserves,” McCain said of votes against defense spending the South Carolina congressman said he couldn’t remember. Mulvaney, a noted budget hawk, has voted repeatedly against a wide array of defense spending. He voted, for example, to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Europe.
“It’s nice to hear you think it’s important because you’ve spent your entire congressional career pitting the debt against the military,” McCain said. “What were you thinking when you voted for an immediate withdrawal of troops (from) Afghanistan?”
Mulvaney told Sen. Claire McCaskill, like McCain a member of both the SASC and Homeland Security committees, that he was “absolutely in lock step” with President Trump’s plans to expand the military. Crucially, Mulvaney said any DoD spending increases would need to be offset by cuts to non-military spending. But that would require Democrats to abandon their current hard line that they will only support increased defense spending if non-military spending increases as well.
Will McCain, his wingman Lindsay Graham and other GOP defense lawmakers join to oppose Mulvaney? Or will they express reservations about his views and vote for him, as they have indicated they will do with Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson? My bet is they express reservations and fight like hell to get the Budget Control Act Repealed.