Senators inch forward with president’s Cabinet picks.
WASHINGTON >> The Senate on Thursday confirmed President Donald Trump’s pick to run the White House budget office, giving the Republicans’ tea party wing a voice in the Cabinet. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., squeaked through on a 51-49 vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. He was sworn in later Thursday by Vice President Mike Pence.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is emerging as perhaps the most vocal Republican critic of the Trump administration, opposed Mulvaney for the nominee’s past House votes supporting cuts to Pentagon spending. “Mulvaney has spent his last six years in the House of Representatives pitting the national debt against our military,” said McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senators then gave a tentative 54-46 procedural green light to Trump’s choice to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. It was a signal that Pruitt should sail through on a final vote scheduled for today, despite being opposed by Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a GOP moderate. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, two of the party’s more moderate members, backed Pruitt.
Mulvaney’s vote means that 13 out of 22 Trump Cabinet or Cabinet-level picks have been confirmed. Nominees to key Cabinet departments such as Interior, Housing and Urban Development, and Energy remain unconfirmed. Mulvaney’s confirmation promises to accelerate work on Trump’s upcoming budget plan, which is overdue. That’s typical at the beginning of an administration. But there is also the need to complete more than $1 trillion in unfinished spending bills for the current budget year, as well as transmit Trump’s request for a quick start on his oft-promised U.S.-Mexican border wall and tens of billions of dollars in emergency cash for the military.
Mulvaney has routinely opposed catchall appropriations bills, which required Republicans to compromise with the Obama White House. The upcoming measure is also going to require deals with Democrats. Mulvaney brings strong conservative credentials to the job, and he’s likely to seek big cuts to longtime GOP targets such as the EPA and other domestic programs whose budgets are set each year by Congress. Democrats opposed Mulvaney over his support for curbing the growth of Medicare and Social Security and other issues, such as his brinksmanship as a freshman lawmaker during the 2011 debt crisis in which the government came uncomfortably close to defaulting on U.S. obligations.