Legislative Activity

OMB Director-Nominee Rep. Mulvaney’s Confirmation Vote Moves to the Full Senate

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) is one step closer to being confirmed as President Donald Trump’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) after being confirmed in a party-line vote by the Senate Committee on the Budget (12-11) and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (8-7) last week. Rep. Mulvaney, a founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, has supported sequestration-level discretionary spending caps on both defense and non-defense spending and a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. During his tenure in the House, Rep. Mulvaney voted against increasing the debt ceiling each time it was brought up and actively championed legislation requiring offsets for new spending measures.

The vote now moves to the Senate floor where he is expected to be confirmed. While Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) heavily criticized the nominee for his reluctance to increase defense spending and claimed he is undecided on whether he will vote in the affirmative, confirmation of Cabinet nominees requires only a simple majority vote, meaning Rep. Mulvaney will not need the Arizona Senator’s vote to be confirmed.

The Return of Earmarks?

Discussion over bringing back earmarks is expected to continue in the coming weeks as House Republicans, who are split on the issue, continue to debate lifting the 2010 ban on legislatively directing spending for local projects. Last Tuesday, the conservative Republican Study Committee held a meeting to advocate against lifting the ban and called for garnering “grassroots support” to prevent “pork-barrel spending.”

A significant number of House Republicans, however, support lifting the ban and are calling for Congress to reassert its constitutional right to specifically allocate funds rather than give this responsibility to federal agencies. Following Speaker Ryan’s intervention in a conference vote last fall, which included a promise to examine the issue early this year, Vice Chairman of the House Rules Committee Tom Cole (R-OK) announced that his committee will hold a series of hearings on topic in the coming weeks. Supporters are hoping to revamp the process of earmarking, which they are rebranding as “line-item appropriations,” and have stated their hopes of lifting the ban before the FY 2018 appropriations process starts.

Executive Branch Activity

President Trump to Deliver Delayed Budget Request

Today marks the February 6 statutory deadline for the President to submit a budget request to Congress for the upcoming fiscal year, a deadline that President Trump, whose OMB director has yet to be confirmed, will miss. There are no penalties for missing the statutory deadline and this is typical of modern Presidents, as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama missed the deadline for submitting budgets their first year in office. Reports are circulating that President Trump may issue an executive order on the FY 2018 budget.