Trump's hard-line budget director choice may not believe in his campaign promises

Trump transition rolls on

Donald Trump has picked for his budget director a fiscal hard-liner who could clash with the president-elect on key campaign promises.

Trump announced this weekend that he chose Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina to lead the Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney, 49, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus that helped to oust former House Speaker John Boehner, was elected to Congress in 2010 and has pushed to slash government spending.

By picking the congressman, who has supported a balanced budget amendment and chopping costs at federal agencies and the military, Trump signals that he is serious about spending cuts, federal budget experts said. But Mulvaney's views could create friction with crucial pieces of Trump's platform, like increased infrastructure and defense spending.

"I think he likes Mulvaney's reputation for being a hard-liner for spending. ... Clearly when you get past the headline rhetoric there are some internal tensions," said Robert Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan organization that aims to promote fiscal responsibility.

Trump, who once called himself the "king of debt," campaigned on a combination of income and corporate tax cuts and an enormous infrastructure plan designed to boost the American economy. He touted spending increases to "rebuild" the military but said he would protect Medicare and Social Security.

The Republican offered only vague details on how he would pay for those plans. The bipartisan Campaign to Fix the Debt said last month that Trump's plans would balloon U.S. debt by $5 trillion in 10 years, though the Trump campaign said the plan will be deficit neutral.

The views of Mulvaney, a staunch fiscal conservative, show that he would want to take the budget in a different direction than Trump did during the campaign. Mulvaney has taken on a "crusade against debt that doesn't have party stripes," said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

The Office of Management and Budget helps the president prepare the budget and coordinates and reviews federal regulations, its website says. Aside from aiding budget planning, Mulvaney would also oversee Trump's pledges to roll back President Barack Obama's rules limiting carbon emissions and protecting some undocumented immigrants from deportation, among others.

Trump and Mulvaney are "probably closer to being on the same page" on regulatory changes than budget issues, Bixby said.

Mulvaney previously opposed raising the government's borrowing limit without serious spending cuts. In an interview with CNBC last year, he downplayed the effects of a government shutdown, which can put some federal employees temporarily out of work or delay their pay.

"We have to figure out why we're always in debt and always in deficit, and the right time to have that is over the debt ceiling," he said in October, shortly before Congress passed a funding bill that the Freedom Caucus opposed.

He has backed cutting what he calls waste and abuse in the Defense Department, sponsoring amendments aimed to cut more than $150 million from a Defense appropriations bill earlier this year. His amendments failed.

Mulvaney, like many conservatives in Congress, has embraced changes to Social Security and Medicare to cut costs. Trump defended those programs on the campaign trail.

Bixby and MacGuineas said it remains to be seen how the administration will approach the national debt. But Bixby noted that many Republicans in Congress have shown doubts about a large infrastructure package, which limits its chances of passing.