Congress

Is Mulvaney a fiscal hawk with babysitter blues?

President Donald Trump’s budget chief nominee faced hard questions about his failure to pay taxes on a nanny 15 years ago, and his previously stated positions on the need to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., nominated to be the next director of the Office of Management and Budget, appeared Tuesday morning before the Senate Committee on the Budget. He was also scheduled to appear later in the day before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

The most uncomfortable moments might revolved around his hiring of a babysitter in 2000 after his wife had triplets. It has been widely reported that Mulvaney, who was not a member of Congress at the time, paid $15,000 in federal taxes for the babysitter only after he was nominated for a position that independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont called “very, very important.”

“In our mind, she was not considered a household employee,” Mulvaney said, noting that she did not live with the family. He said he did not reconsider that assessment until he was tapped as for OMB. He said he got a questionnaire that asked whether he’d ever had a babysitter on whom he hadn’t paid taxes. At that time, he said, he set about righting the wrong.

He also, apparently, failed to complete the I-9 form that is required of all American employees and employers to prove legal employment status. He did not address this issue, though when McClatchy asked him about the matter this week a spokesman who replied noted that the hiring and handling of the babysitter was a mistake made during an extremely busy time in Mulvaney’s life.

Beyond that, the hearings focused on the congressman’s reputation as a fiscal hawk. Republicans saw it as a positive, but Democrats asked whether it was at odds with the president’s campaign promises.

Sanders suggested: “The issue we are discussing today is will the president keep his promises and will he appoint people to his Cabinet who will help him keep those promises?”

He suggested Trump had promised repeatedly on the campaign trail not to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and that runs counter to the oft-stated views of Mulvaney.

“The opinions and attitudes of Mr. Mulvaney are way, way out of touch with the American people and are way out of touch with what the president campaigned on,” Sanders said.

Mulvaney, who was also praised as a “straight shooter” during the hearing by members of both parties, replied that “if we do not reform these programs” they will not survive the coming decades. He agreed under questioning from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that Social Security used to have 16 workers for every recipient, now relies on a 3 to 1 ratio and will soon rely on a 2 to 1 situation.

In his opening statement, Mulvaney claimed that for the first time in “America’s history, the next generation could be less prosperous than the generation that preceded it. To me, and to the people in this room, that is simply unacceptable.”

He noted that the “gross national debt has increased to almost $20 trillion. That number is so large as to defy description. I choose to look at it in a different fashion: To an ordinary American family, that translates to a credit card bill of $260,000. Families know what that would mean for them. And it’s time this government learns what it means to us.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article gave the wrong political party for independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Matthew Schofield: 202-383-6066, @mattschodcnews

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