White House: Don’t give bud­get de­tails

Cab­i­net and agency of­fi­cials told not to elab­o­rate on cuts.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY'S TOP NEWS - By An­drew Taylor As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON — The White House is in­struct­ing Cab­i­net heads and agency of­fi­cials not to elab­o­rate on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pro­posed bud­get cuts be­yond what was in a rel­a­tively brief sub­mis­sion, a move Democrats de­cried as a gag or­der.

Bud­get di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney wrote in a memo late last week that un­til the full bud­get re­lease in May, “all pub­lic com­ments of any sort should be lim­ited to the in­for­ma­tion con­tained in the Bud­get Blue­print chap­ter for your agency,” re­fer­ring to the 53-page doc­u­ment re­leased last Thurs­day.

The bud­get traded a $54 bil­lion boost for the mil­i­tary for crush­ing cuts to do­mes­tic pro­grams like med­i­cal re­search, com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment, for­eign aid and a slew of other ser­vices. Typ­i­cally, Cab­i­net heads and agency of­fi­cials tes­tify be­fore the re­spec­tive con­gres­sional com­mit­tees on the bud­get af­ter its re­lease.

Mul­vaney said depart­ment and agency heads should not make “com­mit­ments about spe­cific pro­grams” or pro­vide fur­ther de­tail about cuts to pro­grams that went un­men­tioned in last week’s sum­mary bud­get, which glossed over many of the most po­lit­i­cally dif­fi­cult de­tails.

“It is crit­i­cally im­por­tant that you not make com­mit­ments about spe­cific pro­grams if they are not ex­pressly men­tioned in the bud­get,” Mul­vaney wrote in the memo. “Sim­i­larly, you should not ad­dress ac­count-level de­tails. Com­ments of such specifics need to wait un­til the re­lease of the full bud­get.”

Mul­vaney’s memo is sim­i­lar to edicts is­sued by pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions, both Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can.

“Was it a gag or­der in 2009 when Pres­i­dent Obama’s OMB is­sued a sim­i­lar memo?” said Mul­vaney spokesman John Czwartacki.

He also noted that Mul­vaney was con­firmed to lead the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get al­most one month later than was the ex­pe­ri­ence of ear­lier ad­min­is­tra­tions.

But the cur­rent or­der is stricter since Trump’s ini­tial bud­get sub­mis­sion is far lighter on de­tails than the in­terim bud­get sub­mit­ted by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in 2009, for in­stance. Mul­vaney also said that only Cab­i­net or agency heads should tes­tify be­fore Congress.

In ad­di­tion, House hear­ings fea­tur­ing Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos and top Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health of­fi­cials have been post­poned, lead­ing Democrats to charge that the White House has is­sued a gag or­der to avoid neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity about the bud­get.

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Bud­get Di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney, at Capi­tol Hill on Tues­day, wrote a memo telling of­fi­cials to limit com­ments to in­for­ma­tion in the Bud­get Blue­print.

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