Mulvaney keeps his congressional seat

U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C. File

WASHINGTON — South Carolina congressman Mick Mulvaney has been named President-elect Donald Trump's budget director, making him the second state Republican to get a top-tier spot in the administration.

Mulvaney, who represents portions of the Upstate, follows Gov. Nikki Haley's pick as ambassador to the United Nations. His formal title would be director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The announcement was first reported by the McClatchy News Service. It was confirmed by The Post and Courier from a source in New York familiar with the transition team that's based in Manhattan's Trump Tower.

Mulvaney was re-elected to a fourth term in November, overwhelmingly defeating Fran Person, a well-funded Democrat with backing from the national party and his former boss, Vice President Joe Biden.

In October, Mulvaney expressed interest in the abstract of serving as director of the OMB, where he'd be responsible for administering the annual federal budget and overseeing the performances of government agencies.

“I would love to be the director of OMB,” Mulvaney, 50, wrote at the time during a question-and-answer session with voters on Facebook. “That is where I think REAL improvements could be made in how the government is run.”

Facebook has consistently been Mulavney's main platform for sharing his thoughts, government positions and photos of his garden with the public, often speaking out candidly on the news of the day. It might have been a sign that an announcement was coming when his campaign and congressional Facebook pages went offline during the afternoon Friday, perhaps in preparation for the scrutiny to come in the confirmation process.

In Washington, D.C., Mulvaney is known for being something of a thorn in the side of leadership. He's a strong fiscal hardliner who has often opposed his own party's budgets and appropriations bills because he said they spent too much money.

The House Freedom Caucus, which he is a co-founder, is famous for having ousted former Speaker John Boehner for not being conservative enough.

For whatever extent Mulvaney is known as an unruly member of the House GOP Conference, his nomination is good news for fellow Republicans who worry Trump might not be as fiscally disciplined as they would like. Trump is talking about significantly boosting military spending and pushing through a major infrastructure bill that would be accompanied by a steep price tag. 

As OMB director, Mulvaney would have a seat at the table. He'd be able to weigh in on budget decisions and priorities, and possibly be a voice of some influence when he sees the warning signs of rampant spending.

After reports surfaced of his pending nomination, Mulvaney's fellow South Carolina Republicans in the U.S. Senate, Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, took to Twitter. Scott, who was elected to Congress alongside Mulvaney in the tea party wave of 2010, called him "smart," and someone who "understands importance of fiscal discipline." Graham agreed Mulvaney would be a "great choice."

They and their fellow senators will vote to confirm Mulvaney — and Haley, as well — early next year. Given their history of friendship, Scott could be an especially effective emissary for Mulvaney as he makes the rounds of screening lawmakers in the Senate.

Scott is also a vice-chairman of Trump's transition team.

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., won't have a role in Mulvaney's confirmation process, but said in a statement that in Mulvaney, "President-elect Donald Trump will gain a strong voice for conservative, purposeful budgeting and government reform."

Predictably, South Carolina Democrats did not react as favorably.

"Mick Mulvaney has devoted his congressional career to pushing tax cuts for the rich while leaving Medicare to the whims of the insurance companies and Social Security to the whims of the stock market," S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison said in a statement. "Now Donald Trump wants to leave our entire federal budget to the whims of Mick Mulvaney. I urge the Senate to protect working Americans by rejecting his nomination.

Mulvaney represents the 5th Congressional District which borders North Carolina at Charlotte, and travels south to Sumter, in the central part of the state.

Recently, Mulvaney had been reevaluating his consideration of a run for governor, saying he was excited by the possibility of driving a conservative agenda in a newly-unified government as Republicans control the House, Senate and White House for the first time in recent memory.

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Emma Dumain is The Post and Courier's Washington correspondent. Reach her at 843-834-0419 and follow her @emma_dumain.

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