- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 16, 2017

President Trump named R. Alexander Acosta to be his new Labor Department secretary Thursday, moving swiftly to replace Andrew Puzder, who withdrew a day earlier.

And Mr. Trump scored another victory in the Senate as lawmakers confirmed his budget director, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, elevating a committed budget hawk to the nerve center of the Trump policy-making apparatus.

The president called the congressman “a fantastic addition” to his team, but said the Senate vote was “weeks, weeks late” — blasting Democrats who have put up near-universal opposition to his Cabinet picks.

“The only thing they can do is delay because they screwed things up royally, believe me,” the president said.

Democrats say the reason for their opposition is the quality and tenor of the president’s nominees. They say proof of that is Mr. Puzder, CEO of a company that oversees Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. franchises, and who withdrew his nomination after accusations of spousal abuse and employing an illegal immigrant as a maid.

In his place, Mr. Trump tapped Mr. Acosta, a former National Labor Relations Board member and dean of Florida International University College of Law. He also served as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.

He also is the first Hispanic nominated for a post in Mr. Trump’s Cabinet, drawing praise from Latino groups who’d felt shut out by the previous lineup.

Liberal activists said they had concerns about Mr. Acosta’s time at the Justice Department, but the level of criticism was far more muted than for some of the president’s other picks, who have been targeted for Democratic filibusters.

One of those was Mr. Mulvaney, a South Carolina Republican has been outspoken about his support for reeling in entitlement programs that threaten to swallow the federal budget, and has also defended the 2011 budget caps that imposed severe spending limits on both domestic and defense spending.

Those views made him deeply controversial, even within some quarters of the GOP. Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, denounced him as a danger to national security, and joined Democrats in voting against him.

Still, Mr. Mulvaney cleared on a 51-49 vote.

His backers said Mr. Mulvaney is the right person to rein in the mass of regulations the Obama administration imposed on the economy.

Mr. Mulvaney will be able to play a crucial role in taming the unchecked growth of the federal government,” said Sen. Mike Enzi, chairman of the Budget Committee.

As the head of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Mr. Mulvaney will not only oversee the annual writing of the president’s budget, but he serves as the nerve center for basic government operations, reviewing every regulation that departments and agencies want to propose.

That makes him the gatekeeper for deciding most of the big questions of how the federal government operates.

Democrats said Mr. Mulvaney was an odd choice for Mr. Trump, saying the congressman’s stances on reining in entitlements clashes with the president’s campaign vows to protect benefits for Social Security and Medicare.

“Not only has he advocated for cutting benefits, he wants to jack up the retirement age for Medicare to 67, and for Social Security, he wants to raise it to 70,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

During his confirmation hearing, Mr. Mulvaney didn’t back down from his stances, but said he’ll only be a voice advocating to Mr. Trump. The president will make the final decisions, Mr. Mulvaney said.

The congressman also ran into trouble when he admitted he had failed to pay payroll taxes on a housekeeper from 2000 to 2004.

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