Mick Mulvaney was a member of the House of Representatives from South Carolina until just three months ago. Now, as White House budget director, he’s getting tough questions from his former state colleagues.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Budget Committee, pressed Mulvaney hard at a hearing Thursday about the budget’s call to cut funding for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development by more than 29 percent. The committee was scrutinizing President Donald Trump’s $4.1 trillion fiscal 2018 budget.
He warned that reducing aid to countries like Jordan, a key Middle East ally, and Georgia, an uneasy neighbor of Russia, could have disastrous effects.
“The king of Jordan is the best ally we could hope to have. We reduce his funding by $275 million?” Graham told Mulvaney. “I got a call from the ambassador from Jordan saying, ‘What did we do wrong?’ Nothing, ma’am.”
Graham added, “These people aren’t owed a dime by taxpayers – foreign aid is 1 percent of the budget – but I will tell you this, Mr. Mulvaney, from my humble point of view, if we don’t help the king of Jordan more in a time of critical need, his kingdom could fall.”
The hawkish Graham pressed Mulvaney on “soft power,” a term used to describe the diplomatic approach to foreign relations, asking him whether he agreed with Graham that “We’ll never win the war on terror just through dropping bombs on terrorists?”
Mulvaney defended the cuts, saying, “You know why we did what we did: It was the president keeping his promise to spend less on foreign aid.”
Graham wasn’t persuaded.
“The reason I’d vote no (for the budget) is because soft power is destroyed in this budget,” he said.
Graham’s scolding followed one Wednesday by Rep. Mark Sanford, a Republican member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and a former South Carolina governor.
Sanford blasted Mulvaney at a House Budget Committee hearing over the budget’s assumption of 3 percent annual economic growth. He called the projection a “Goldilocks economy.”
“I have looked every which way to how you might get there, and you can’t get there,” Sanford told Mulvaney. “The Bible says you can’t build a house on a sandy foundation. What it does is perpetuate a myth that we can go out there and balance the budget without touching entitlements. It’s not only a myth, it’s frankly a lie.”