- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mick Mulvaney made a name for himself in Congress fighting bloated government, an approach he now brings to two jobs at the same time for the Trump administration.

He’s facing off against Leandra English, an Obama administration political appointee who managed to burrow her way into the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and has now become the champion of President Trump’s opponents in a battle over who is the bureau’s rightful acting director.

Mr. Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, was tapped by Mr. Trump to run simultaneously the CFPB, a 1,600-employee agency accused by conservatives of running amok with regulations and penalties on businesses.

The temporary appointment of Mr. Mulvaney survived a court challenge Tuesday, leaving him essentially with two full-time jobs until the president nominates a permanent replacement for CFPB director. Mr. Mulvaney said earlier this week that he plans to spend about three days per week at each job.

“I recognize that adds up to more than five days a week, but that’s just life,” Mr. Mulvaney told reporters. “I have been a small business owner before. I have slept at the office. I have worked 16-hour days. I have seven days a week. It’s not something new.”

A top Republican demanded answers Wednesday on how Ms. English, who filed suit to block Mr. Mulvaney from taking over at CFPB, managed to “burrow” into her job and outlast the Obama administration.

Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Ms. English held a political job at the Office of Personnel Management but managed to convert herself to a career civil service position early this year at the CFPB.

The process is called “burrowing,” and it is generally frowned upon, though it does happen somewhat regularly.

In Ms. English’s case, however, it’s taken on a higher profile now that she’s involved in a major lawsuit arguing that she is the rightful acting director of the CFPB, rather than Mr. Mulvaney, the man Mr. Trump named to the job last Friday.

“Based on Ms. English’s participation in politically-motivated litigation to prevent the president of the United States from appointing an acting director of the CFPB, I am concerned that the conversion of Ms. English into a career position was abused for political purposes,” Mr. Johnson said in a letter demanding answers from the OPM.

The OPM, the federal government’s chief human resources branch, is supposed to approve every move between a political position and a career civil service post.

But Mr. Johnson said that seemed a particularly troubling move in the case of Ms. English, who was herself a political appointee at the OPM at the time the agency approved her for a career position at CFPB.

The jump also boosted her salary by $11,000, Mr. Johnson said, and he said she was quickly moved around within CFPB, suggesting she was placed in the bureau for political purposes.

“After the election of President Trump but before his inauguration, Ms. English successfully turned a political appointment by President Obama at OPM into a career position at the CFPB through the approval of the then-acting director of the OPM, to whom she served as the principal deputy chief of staff,” the senator wrote.

The OPM didn’t respond to a message seeking comment, nor did Ms. English’s lawyer handling her legal claim to the acting director’s post.

Mr. Mulvaney, a 50-year-old South Carolinian surprised nobody on his first day at the consumer bureau by ordering a hiring freeze and a freeze on new regulations. Elected to the House in the tea party wave in 2010, Mr. Mulvaney became a consistent opponent of higher government spending as co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus and voted in favor of a government shutdown in 2011 in a showdown with then-President Obama.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who has called Mr. Mulvaney a “radical,” was aghast when Mr. Trump chose him to be in charge of the administration’s spending priorities.

“We cannot have an OMB director who sees inflicting pain on working families as leverage for his radical agenda,” she said at the time.

In 2013, Mr. Mulvaney supported a two-week government shutdown in a dispute with Democrats over funding the Affordable Care Act. He also had a role in driving out then-Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Republican, in 2015.

Mr. Mulvaney did not come to the administration as a Trump loyalist. He initially supported Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky in the GOP presidential primary before endorsing Mr. Trump in the summer of 2016.

In his first few days at CFPB, Mr. Mulvaney has been poring over the books to get a handle on roughly 100 lawsuits brought by the agency and its civil penalty fund of more than $50 million.

“I’m just learning about the powers that I have as acting director. They would frighten most of you,” Mr. Mulvaney told reporters this week. He also said the agency’s level of independence should “disturb” people who believe in checks and balances.

“And it doesn’t surprise me, by the way, to the extent we’re having a succession challenge, as lodged by Ms. English,” he said of the rival he still apparently hasn’t met. “It doesn’t surprise me that that grows out of an agency that thinks it’s not accountable to anybody in the first place.”

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