President Donald Trump's choice to run the White House budget office cleared a Senate hurdle Wednesday, though a senior Republican says he won't support him.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney is a tea party lawmaker from South Carolina who has attracted opposition from Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz. McCain says Mulvaney's record of support for military operations in Afghanistan and the Pentagon budget generally is too soft.
"Congressman Mulvaney's beliefs, as revealed by his poor record on defense spending, are fundamentally at odds with President Trump's commitment to rebuild our military," McCain said in a speech on the Senate floor. "And this record cannot be ignored in light of the significant authority exercised by the director of OMB (the Office of Management and Budget) over the federal budget."
The Senate voted 52-48 along party lines to advance Mulvaney to a final, up-or-down vote Thursday, where the outcome no longer appears to be in doubt after another senior Republican grudgingly announced his support.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran of Mississippi is supporting Mulvaney after expressing reservations Wednesday morning.
"He's never been a friend of the Appropriations Committee," Cochran said earlier. "I don't think he's ever (liked) an appropriations bill."
But Cochran's spokesman, Chris Gallegos, said Wednesday afternoon that the 38-year Senate veteran will vote for Mulvaney.
The Senate is moving slowly on Trump's Cabinet. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Wednesday that continued delays are putting the chamber on course to "working well into the weekend."
Delays in processing Mulvaney's nomination appear to be contributing to a lag in producing Trump's much-awaited budget plan for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Trump's plans are unknown, but Mulvaney and a top staff aide bring staunchly conservative credentials to their posts.
Mulvaney is reportedly eyeing sharp cuts to domestic agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, but Trump has indicated he's not interested in tackling highly popular benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare.