WASHINGTON -- The tea party wing of the GOP gained a voice in President Donald Trump's Cabinet on Thursday when Mick Mulvaney was sworn in as director of the White House budget office.
Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office hours after the Senate confirmed the South Carolina Republican's nomination on a narrow 51-49 vote in the GOP-controlled Senate. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton, both Arkansas Republicans, backed Mulvaney's confirmation.
Pence praised Mulvaney's "extraordinary record" and said he "couldn't be more enthusiastic" about Trump's decision to choose him.
Not all Republicans shared Pence's sentiments.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona opposed the former congressman on the basis of his past House votes supporting cuts to Pentagon spending.
"Mulvaney has spent his last six years in the House of Representatives pitting the national debt against our military," said McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Senators also gave a tentative 54-46 procedural green light to Trump's choice to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. It was a signal that Pruitt should sail through on a final vote scheduled for today.
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, two of the party's more moderate members, backed Pruitt.
Trump has tapped some of the wealthiest Americans to serve in his Cabinet, and ethics reviews have slowed the confirmation process. So have Senate Democrats, who mostly have opposed all the nominees and forced hours of debate.
Mulvaney's vote means that 13 out of 22 Trump Cabinet or Cabinet-level picks have been confirmed. Nominees to key Cabinet departments such as Interior, Housing and Urban Development, and Energy await confirmation.
Mulvaney's confirmation promises to accelerate work on Trump's coming budget plan, which is overdue. That's typical at the beginning of an administration. But there is also the need to complete more than $1 trillion in unfinished spending bills for the current budget year, as well as transmit Trump's request for a quick start on his oft-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall and tens of billions of dollars in emergency cash for the military.
Democrats opposed Mulvaney over his support for curbing the growth of Medicare and Social Security and on other matters, such as his brinksmanship as a freshman lawmaker during the 2011 debt crisis in which the government came uncomfortably close to defaulting on its obligations.
"He said to me in a one-on-one meeting how he would prioritize the debts he would pay if he defaulted on the debt," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. "Wouldn't that be a great addition to the chaos we are all feeling right now?"
Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, is moving forward on his confirmation campaign, making daily visits to Senate offices.
Though Democrats who have met with him have almost uniformly said that the perfectly pedigreed federal appeals court judge is impressive, Gorsuch's overtures may not be enough to win easy confirmation. Liberals are pressuring Democrats to strongly oppose Trump's pick. Several Democratic senators say they are uncomfortable with some of Gorsuch's judicial decisions.
Republicans would like to see Gorsuch take the ninth spot on the court by the time they leave for a two-week recess April 10 and in time for the court's arguments that start a week later.
Information for this article was contributed by Mary Clare Jalonick and Erica Werner of The Associated Press.
A Section on 02/17/2017
Print Headline: White House budget chief sworn in