While the government shutdown is affecting potentially hundreds of thousands of government workers and countless citizens who rely on government services, there’s one person who seems to be enjoying the current situation: Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget. “I found out for the first time last night that the person who technically shuts down the government down is me, which is kind of cool,” Mulvaney said in a Friday radio interview with conservative commentator Sean Hannity. Media Matters for America was first to flag Mulvaney’s remarks.
The federal government shut down at 12:01 am Saturday as Republicans and Democrats remain stuck in a standoff after failing to reach a deal to fund the government. The Office of Management and Budget, which Mulvaney helms, is in charge of implementing and running the shutdown. Apparently the former House Freedom Caucus leader is enjoying his newly discovered power.
Here’s Mulvaney’s full exchange with Hannity:
HANNITY: All of the important aspects involving the government continue, and those people that are furloughed usually get their money back, because Congress will give them back pay and a free vacation.
MULVANEY: Yeah, I mean ... here’s how I explained it to people. I explained it this — obviously, I’m — the reason that, obviously, I’m heavily involved in this, Sean, is that the Office of Management and Budget is charged with, you know, sort of implementing running a shutdown. In fact, I found out for the first time last night that the person who technically shuts the government down is me, which is kind of cool.
There are a couple of disturbing things about Mulvaney’s remarks. First, a government shutdown isn’t particularly “cool.” During the last government shutdown in 2013, which lasted for 16 days, about 850,000 federal workers were furloughed, and in shutdowns, both furloughed and non-furloughed employees are unpaid. (They’re usually paid retroactively, but some people still haven’t been paid from the last one.) Shutdowns disproportionately harm more vulnerable communities — kids in the Head Start program, military families, janitors, security guards, and other low-wage federal contractors. And, obviously, none of this is good for the economy.
Second, it is striking that Mulvaney seems to have just discovered a very important part of his job — nearly a year after he was sworn in. He released a memo on Friday telling federal agencies to prepare for an “orderly shutdown” and providing some guidance for what to do. Mulvaney is far from the first Trump appointee to not entirely know what his job entails. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, for example, reportedly initially misunderstood what his duties as energy secretary would be, believing he would be an ambassador for US gas and oil — not knowing that he would also be overseeing America’s nuclear stockpile.