Kaine On Opposing Mulvaney For OMB: His Budget Policy Won’t Keep America’s Fiscal Credibility Sound

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, voted against Congressman Mick Mulvaney’s nomination to serve as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). In a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, Kaine cited Mulvaney’s record of opposition to bipartisan budget efforts to roll back sequestration, his support for policies that unfairly target federal employees, his willingness to use the full faith and credit of the United States as negotiating leverage, and his unwillingness to admit climate change is an urgent problem.

“There's got to be a recognition of the value of bipartisan compromise putting the country first, putting pragmatism ahead of ideology in a commitment that's rock solid to maintaining the fiscal credibility and integrity of the country,” said Kaine. “His public service in Congress is something I respect … but in terms of being the chief budget official for the United States, I do not think he's demonstrated the ability to do that, and to keep America’s fiscal policy and reputation sound.”

Kaine had previously announced his opposition to Mulvaney’s nomination.

Below is Kaine’s speech in full:

I rise today to speak on the nomination of Representative Mulvaney to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, the matter currently pending before us. I will vote against the nomination because of Representative Mulvaney's opposition to bipartisan budget accords, his targeting of federal employees and his willingness to use the full faith and credit of the United States as negotiating leverage.

Background. This is a really important position, and I’m on the budget committee that oversees OMB and its opportunities. The OMB Director is the primary advisor to the president on budgetary matters. The OMB Director is in charge of preparing the annual Presidential budget submission to Congress. And the management function of the OMB Is a very important one in terms of the management of the federal workforce and the work of the executive.

We have seen OMB Directors in the past deeply involved in fiscal negotiations of national importance. Most notably in the time I’ve been here, on deals to address the across the board sequester and even the shutdown of government in October of 2013. So it’s very important that this position, the Director have a proven record of certainly public service on one side or the other is fine, but there's got to be a recognition of the value of bipartisan compromise putting the country first, putting pragmatism ahead of ideology in a commitment that's rock solid to maintaining the fiscal credibility and integrity of the country.

I worry about Representative Mulvaney on each of these areas. With respect to bipartisan compromise on budget matters, I was a Budget conferee in 2013 after the government shutdown. The Senate and House each had a budget. There was a refusal to sit down to do a budget conference. That led to the absence of a budget and the shutdown of government for 13 days, the greatest government on Earth. As we came out of the shutdown, there was a recognition and an agreement that we would sit down and try to hammer out a budget compromise. People didn't give us a lot of odds that we would do it. But because of the leadership of then-Budget chairs, now the current speaker, Paul Ryan and Patty Murray, the Budget chairs enabled us to reach a compromise that was in the good of the country by the end of calendar year 2013.

At that point the nominee was a member of Congress and played a very active role in opposing the budget compromise. He voted against the deal that we needed to get following the shutdown of government and his quote was, “It seems yet again that Washington cannot wean itself from its spending addiction. Indeed what we saw today is another example of how we got $17 trillion in debt. We can have lots of bipartisanship as long as we spend more money”. The unwillingness to embrace a bipartisan compromise even after the government of the United States shut down troubles me significantly.

I worry about his pragmatism on these matters. He has supported using government shutdown and the threat of government shutdown as a lever, as a lever to defund Planned Parenthood, as a lever on other matters that he thinks are important. And that's fine. But to use the shutdown of the federal government, that government that Abraham Lincoln said was a government by, of, and for the people and should not perish from the face of the Earth, I view that as we should not shut the government of the United States down, but he has used debt ceiling and shutdown as a leverage to gain his way on points of lesser importance than whether the government stays open. He has continued to support the sequester which I believe is bad policy for the United States. Quote: “We want to keep the sequester in place and take the cuts we can get.”

There's also a significant issue that matters to me in my state. I asked him about it during the hearing that demonstrates an ideology over pragmatism which is does he accept the science behind climate change. Why does that matter for an OMB Director? Well, we're investing money in storm relief. We're investing money in emergency relief. We're investing money when we rewrite the flood insurance program. In Hampton Roads in the state where I am, 1.6 million people – biggest center of naval power in the country deeply affected by sea level rise – if you're a budget director some of what you do is make recommendations on how to spend money on things like resilience to sea level rise but if you do not believe that humans are affecting climate change then your budgets are not going to show that you think it is a priority. In questions before the Committee he challenged the notion that humans are affecting climate change.

I worry about his effect on the federal workforce. There's 170,000 federal employees in Virginia – a significant constituency. They do a great job. There's going to be some challenging employees in any entity, whether it's in the Senate or whether in a private entity but on balance our federal employees are people who deserve our thanks for the job that they do. The House took an action at the beginning of January – the Senate did not take this action – but the House took an action reinstated something called the Holman Rule. The Holman Rule is an old long-standing but for a long while unused doctrine that allows the House in an appropriations bill to target an individual employee and reduce their salary to as low as $1 a year. They couldn't fire someone without violating civil service rules, but the House voted to be able to target individual employees and reduce their salaries to $1 a year. This together with federal hiring freeze and other actions is causing a great deal of angst among the federal workforce. Congressman Mulvaney supported the notion of bringing back the Holman Rule so individual federal employees could be targeted. I asked him about that when he visited in the office. He did not have an answer that I found convincing or credible.

Finally, the debt ceiling. We're going to confront within a few months the debt ceiling of the United States. Our willingness to honor the obligations in the debt that has previously been incurred. The full faith and credit of the United States shall not be questioned is something that's very important. I think it's in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, and certainly that's been our example that we've set around the world, that we have strong credit and no one can ever question whether the United States will stand behind its debts. But Congressman be Mulvaney has often taken the position that the US could default on debt and then prioritize which debts it would pay. That happens in the commercial space some. Sometimes it's an intentional tool and sometimes it's an accidental tool and we have bankruptcy laws to allow the prioritization of debts. But the United States does not repudiate its debts and we should not flirt with something like a debt ceiling and suggest that we're going to repudiate our debts.

So in closing, I am troubled by the nominee's opposition to bipartisan budget efforts. I'm troubled by an ideological position that would say we could potentially default on our debts or flirt with shutting down the government to achieve my way on this or that issue. For those reasons I oppose him. His public service in Congress is something I respect, and I respect the fact that he's been returned to the body multiple times by his voters. That should be worthy of respect as well. But in terms of being the chief budget official for the United States, I do not think he's demonstrated the ability to do that, and to keep America’s fiscal policy and reputation sound.

For that, I will oppose him.

###