WASHINGTON (CN) – The director of the Office of Management and Budget defended the Trump administration’s budget proposal to Congress on Wednesday, turning back criticism that it too deeply cuts social programs and is based on faulty math.
Appearing before the House Budget Committee, Mick Mulvaney continued talking points that he has used in previous public comments on the budget, saying the administration crafted the spending proposal from the perspective of the taxpayer and cut programs that it saw as ineffective or wasteful.
“I don’t believe that people are willing to pay for as much government as they have and I don’t think that we’ve been entirely honest with them for about the last 40 years about what government actually costs,” Mulvaney said Wednesday.
Mulvaney returned to Capitol Hill one day after delivering the budget to congressional committees. Congress has met the proposal, which balances increases in defense spending with deep cuts to welfare programs like Medicaid, with a mixture of harsh criticism and shrugs.
On Wednesday, Republicans on the House Budget Committee praised the spirit of the budget, saying it is admirable for the administration to put forward a proposal that balances after 10 years.
However, they also expressed concerns about some of the budget’s specific cuts, such as those to the National Institutes of Health, which Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., described as “penny wise and pound foolish.”
Meanwhile, Democrats used the hearing to continue sharp attacks of the proposal that began when the administration released a short summary in March.
Calling the budget plan “morally bankrupt,” and a “tremendous betrayal” of President Donald Trump’s biggest supporters, Democrats tore into the budget’s cuts to welfare and social programs.
“What we’re doing is taking away essential benefits for working families across this country — positions that the president ran on — and putting them into the top earners in this country,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said at the hearing.
One of the programs Democrats most often pointed to when criticizing the budget was Medicaid, which the Trump administration plan cuts by $610 billion in addition to other cuts contained in the Health Care Act reform bill the House passed earlier this month.
Democrats said the plan goes back on promises he made to the voters who elected him and also pointed to cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps.
“What you’re doing is asking people to fend for themselves and you’re really leaving them out in the cold,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said at the hearing.
Mulvaney pushed back on these critiques, noting that the Trump budget does not decrease the actual dollars going towards Medicaid but rather simply does not increase spending on the program as much as is assumed in the baseline budget. That makes the spending levels for Medicaid appear as a cut in the budget, though Mulvaney argued most people would not consider it one.
Democrats responded by pointing out those increases are built into the baseline budget to account for inflation and increases in population.
Mulvaney also disagreed with claims from Democrats that the Trump budget balances after 10 years in part because it relies on an optimistic economic growth rate. He said projections that the economy would only continue to grow at current growth rates are pessimistic.
“We think that if that’s where you are then don’t accept it,” Mulvaney said. “Help us figure out a way to get back to three percent growth.”
But Democrats were not satisfied with Mulvaney’s answers, specifically pushing him on math in the budget that they say double counts assumptions about the benefits of the tax plan the Trump administration has promised to pass.
Mulvaney is scheduled to again defend the administration’s budget before the Senate on Thursday. Presidential budgets are nothing more than requests and Congress, which ultimately determines federal spending levels, is expected to completely rewrite the Trump proposal.