‘Answer the question’: Bernie Sanders clashes with Trump budget chief during hearing

Andrew Bahl

Fireworks erupted Thursday when President Trump’s budget chief sparred with a Senate panel over the administration’s proposed 2018 budget, most notably trading barbs with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., over potential cuts to entitlement programs.

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, appeared before the Senate Budget Committee as part of the rollout of Trump’s proposed spending plan, which was unveiled earlier this week.

Just minutes into the hearing, Mulvaney drew Sanders’ ire for comments he made about the Congressional Budget Office. The nonpartisan agency released a report Wednesday saying that the Republicans’ proposed health care law, a key piece of the administration’s plan to cut Medicaid spending by some $800 billion, would result in the loss of health insurance for 23 million Americans.

“I find it a little bit unfair that Mr. Mulvaney and many people in the Trump administration disparage the head of the CBO … when it was a Republican who appointed him,” Sanders said.

Mulvaney pushed back on those remarks, calling the CBO report “awful” and saying that the office is untrustworthy. “We can agree the CBO puts out bad data,” he said.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney arrives at a Senate Budget Committee hearing on May 25. (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

Sanders also blasted the budget’s steep cuts to antipoverty programs, noting that they come at the same time the Trump administration is pushing for tax cuts that benefit the wealthy. He particularly criticized the proposed repeal of the estate tax.

“Answer the question: The wealthiest family in America gets a $52 billion tax break as a result of the estate tax,” Sanders told Mulvaney. “Tell the American people why you think that’s good when you cut Medicaid and you cut programs for kids.”

In his response, Mulvaney noted that it is difficult to predict the expected impact of the tax cuts on wealthy Americans.

“It is mathematically impossible to take those general principles and assume their impact on a particular family,” he said.

“That is not true,” Sanders shot back.

The testy exchange was a source of amusement for other members of the committee.

“That was borderline fascinating,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said to laughter before beginning his questioning of Mulvaney.


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