White House

Trump picks SC’s Rep. Mick Mulvaney as his budget director

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., questions Mylan CEO Heather Bresch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 21, 2016.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., questions Mylan CEO Heather Bresch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 21, 2016. AP

President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., to be director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Trump made the announcement early Saturday. Mulvaney would need to be confirmed by the Senate.

Mulvaney had expressed an interest in running OMB, when asked by a constituent on Facebook Oct. 19 where he would like to serve in a hypothetical Trump Cabinet.

“I would love to be the director of OMB,” he wrote. “That is where I think REAL improvements could be made in how the government is run.”

A fiscal conservative, Mulvaney is a member of the House Financial Services Committee and is a co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, a group of about 40 lawmakers that helped push then-House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to resign.

In announcing the nomination, Trump said in a press release: “Mick is a very high-energy leader with deep convictions for how to responsibly manage our nation’s finances and save our country from drowning in red ink.”

Mulvaney was not an early Trump backer during the presidential campaign. He initially supported Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., for the Republican nomination but announced his endorsement of Trump in June hours after House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. did the same.

“The Trump administration will restore budgetary and fiscal sanity back in Washington after eight years of an out-of-control, tax and spend financial agenda, and will work with Congress to create policies that will be friendly to American workers and businesses,” Mulvaney said in his statement about the nomination.

After McClatchy reported the news Friday, Republicans in his home state praised the decision.

“Mick would be a great choice for OMB Director,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “I’ve often described him as ‘young’ Paul Ryan when it comes to all things budget-related. He’s done his homework when it comes to the federal budget and will hit the ground running in this very important job.”

“By selecting congressman Mick Mulvaney to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget, President-elect Donald Trump will gain a strong voice for conservative, purposeful budgeting and government reform,” Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., said in statement.

Mulvaney, who has represented South Carolina’s 5th District since 2011, won re-election in November after being challenged by Fran Person, a former aide to Vice President Joe Biden. He lives in Indian Land.

Mulvaney attended UNC Chapel Hill’s law school and practiced law in his own firm, then ran a family real estate business, started a small homebuilding company, and then owned and operated his own restaurant.

Mulvaney traveled to Trump Tower in New York to meet with Trump last week. At the time, transition spokesman Jason Miller described Mulvaney as having “a very proven track record as a fiscal conservative and a government reformer.” Mulvaney declined to comment after the meeting. His office did not respond Friday.

The director will help Trump prepare his annual proposed budget, which could be crucial to his policy initiatives, such as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The duties also include ensuring government agencies follow the president’s programs and policies. Trump had reportedly also considered Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn.

The OMB chief, often shorthanded as budget director, and the office administers the federal budget and measures the performance of federal agencies. They help set and enforce policies and practices of the federal government’s purchase of goods and services, called procurement. On a more mundane level, the office also oversees the performance review process for agencies and federal employees.

The job tends to be held by policy wonks, but some do gain fame or notoriety. In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s budget chief David Stockman was an advocate for what became known as Reaganomics, and remains a public figure decades later. Like Mulvaney, Stockman was a member of Congress before becoming budget director.

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 President George W. Bush. He ran for the Senate later.

Leon Panetta, who ran OMB under President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, also had been a member of the House before accepting the position. He then was Clinton’s chief of staff, and later, under President Barack Obama, he was CIA director and secretary of defense.

If confirmed, Mulvaney would be the latest official in Trump’s inner circle with ties to South Carolina. Gov. Nikki Haley was chosen for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Trey Gowdy were recently named as advisers on Trump’s transition team.

Kevin G. Hall contributed.