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With Trump as boss, Mick Mulvaney struggles to deliver on old promises

Emma Dumain, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Mick Mulvaney went to the Office of Management and Budget promising to stay true to his fiscal conservative values, but seven months later he's let many of his former colleagues down.

Duty-bound to a more populist-leaning President Donald Trump, the ex-GOP congressman from South Carolina hasn't been able to deliver on many of the items that topped his own agenda on Capitol Hill, notably cutting entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid and slashing spending for social welfare initiatives.

He also hasn't been able to move the needle on some major parochial concerns for the Palmetto State, surprising some members of the South Carolina congressional delegation who might have originally seen a personal advantage to having one of their own in the Trump administration.

"I've never served with a Republican administration, so I wouldn't know what to expect," said Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., who was elected with Mulvaney to Congress in 2010. "I would have thought there'd be more coordination."

"Mick is a straight shooter, and one thing we can be certain of is, we're going to get a returned phone call," Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., said of having a fellow South Carolinian at the OMB.

On national issues, Mulvaney has had to make adjustments. He has a new job now, and he's argued that those who try to hold him to the same standards as when he was a member of Congress are being unfair.

He was bullish on this point as recently as last week, when a roomful of House Republicans scoffed at his pleas for them to support legislation that included hurricane relief aid and a three-month extension of the debt ceiling and government funding. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., joked that Mulvaney should hire away more members of Congress so they, too, could undergo an ideological transformation, a jab that reportedly made the OMB director grow quiet.

"I work for the president of United States. I work for the office of Management and Budget," Mulvaney told reporters, refusing to answer whether he would have voted for this deal himself were he still a House member. "Ralph Norman represents the 500,000 people I used to represent."

Norman, a Republican elected to replace Mulvaney in mid-June, voted against the legislative package.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the chairman of the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he understood his former colleague's predicament.

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