Why was Trump talking with South Carolina’s Mick Mulvaney on Monday?

Before South Carolina’s Rep. Mick Mulvaney met with President elect Donald Trump Monday. Earlier, pPolice officers walked through the lobby of Trump Tower.
Before South Carolina’s Rep. Mick Mulvaney met with President elect Donald Trump Monday. Earlier, pPolice officers walked through the lobby of Trump Tower. AP

U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina had no comment about his New York meeting Monday with President-elect Donald Trump.

The Trump transition team only would say that the two men had, indeed, met. Trump spokesman Jason Miller added Mulvaney “has a very proven track record as a fiscal conservative and a government reformer.”

As for why they’re meeting, that’s a secret. The only hint lay in a two-month-old response to a comment on Mulvaney’s Facebook page.

Mulvaney on Oct. 19 was asked by a reader which office in a Trump administration he would like: “I would love to be the Director of OMB (The Office of Management and Budget). That is where I think REAL improvements could be made in how the government is run,” he wrote, back then.

Of course, unless the Facebook questioner was from the Trump transition team, it might not actually matter what Mulvaney would love to do. Experts wonder, however, if the Office of Management and Budget rumor makes sense.

The Office of Management and Budget is a tremendously important job in any administration. But it is usually seen as just that, a job. It is the ultimate apparatchik position. Historically the job has been one for insiders who savor the challenge of digging into budgets, and less commonly attractive to those with political ambitions.

But Mulvaney is a politician. He is known for enjoying the limelight. So consider Shaun Donovan. Know the name? It’s not surprising if you don’t. That’s the man this rumor would have Mulvaney replace.

The OMB rumor is a far cry from the other rumor following Mulvaney around after his landslide reelection to Congress – that he’s mulling a gubernatorial bid.

Todd Shaw, the political science chairman at the University of South Carolina, says the notion of Mulvaney in the OMB role is a bit puzzling.

“The job does not move you forward in South Carolina politics,” said Shaw. “Traditionally, it doesn’t move you forward in politics much at all. Even if he served as an OMB director and wanted to return to the seat he’s now in, he’d come back a bit behind where he is right now. Unless he doesn’t have future political ambitions, I’d be surprised.”

It’s not that OMB would be outside the realm of Mulvaney’s interests. Mulvaney now serves on the House committees on Financial Services and Oversight and Government Reform, both areas that work on similar topics in government. But the House committees are about creating policy, while at OMB it would be about policy enforcement.

Take Donovan, for example. He was President Barack Obama’s fourth, and final, OMB director. Before that, he was Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development and before that, he’d headed New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The list of former OMB directors is filled with similar bureaucratic types.

That isn’t to say it’s been a no-go zone for politicians. Iowa Rep. Jim Nussle was picked for the slot by President George W. Bush. Nussle, however, had lost an election for Iowa governor, and was into the post-political stage of his career.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, whose views on cutting government spending are similar to Mulvaney’s, left the U.S. House before taking the director’s job under George W. Bush. He ran for the Senate later.

Leon Panetta, who ran OMB under President Bill Clinton, also had been a member of the House before accepting the position. He then served as Clinton’s chief of staff, and later, under Barack Obama, as CIA director and then secretary of defense.

Matthew Schofield: 202-383-6066, @mattschodcnews