By Ramsey Cox
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) has put himself at the forefront of the crusade against President Obama's budget and tax policies, and is doing so with his own brand of humor.
With tongue firmly in cheek, late last month Mulvaney corrected what he called a Democratic "oversight" by offering Obama's 2013 budget for a House vote.
"Clearly, my colleagues meant to offer the president's budget as an amendment and simply failed to do so," Mulvaney said on the House floor. "And so in a pique of bipartisanship, I thought I would help my colleagues across the aisle out a little bit and offer the president's budget, which is exactly what this amendment is."
Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) called the move a "charade" and said Mulvaney's amendment was "a very misleading version of what the president has asked us to do."
Democrats opposed the amendment, which was defeated 414-0, although Mulvaney said he was "honored" that Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) asked him to offer it.
Mulvaney, who serves on the Budget Committee, remained loyal to Ryan by voting for his budget this year.
"I thought that Paul and the leadership negotiated in good faith. They gave us some of the things we asked for. They didn't give us everything we asked for, but that's the nature of negotiation," Mulvaney said. "Paul really had given us everything leadership was going to give him. I think he was at the end of his rope with leadership."
A common criticism of Ryan's budget from both Democrats and Republicans was its lack of detail on taxes. But Mulvaney said he didn't blame Ryan for that because it's not the Budget Committee's job.
"I had no difficulty with the lack of specificity in the budget. I have difficulty with the lack of specificity that my party is offering generally and the fact that we've been talking about tax reform since the day I got here but that we haven't seen a single bill out of the Ways and Means Committee," Mulvaney said.
"I think that's an embarrassment. We sit here and talk and talk about tax reform and closing the loopholes and broadening the base, lowering the rates, but it's all words. We haven't taken any real action on that in 15 months and I think that's disingenuous," he said.
Mulvaney introduced the Keeping Promises to Taxpayers Act to highlight Obama's broken promise not to impose taxes on those earning less than $250,000.
He got the idea during a committee hearing last year when Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) proposed an amendment to Ryan's 2012 budget that would have promised not to raise taxes on that group of taxpayers.
"[Obama] promised never to raise taxes on people making less than $250,000 [a year]," Mulvaney said. "He's clearly not living up to his campaign promises. So we just decided it would be a good bill to draw attention to the fact that taxes actually have gone up."
Mulvaney's bill, H.R. 4064, would repeal 12 tax increases -- most of which were part of Obama's Affordable Care Act -- such as taxes on the use of tanning beds and the purchase of tobacco products.
Mulvaney isn't just trying to keep the president accountable, he's also quick to call out the leaders of his own party.
Along with several other conservative freshmen, Mulvaney returned $1.4 million in unspent office funds to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
But Mulvaney said they didn't do it "to beat their chests": they did it to expose the fact that the money wouldn't automatically be used to pay down the deficit -- it goes into a "slush fund" for whomever is speaker to use.
"It's absurd to ask a Republican office to sacrifice so that Nancy Pelosi can have more of a slush fund and it's just not right. And the same is true with Boehner, even though he's my party's leader," said Mulvaney. "Why would I ask these folks to do with less so that he could have more? So we were trying to draw attention to the fact that this shared fund seems like a screwy system."
Another area of frustration with leadership for Mulvaney is that his "YouCut" bill -- officially called the Reducing the Size of Federal Government Through Attrition Act -- hasn't had a floor vote, despite having passed through committee at the end of last year.
"We were told it would have a floor vote -- I don't know what's happened," Mulvaney said. "I think what you're seeing is that it's such a good idea, that it actually saves a lot of money, that it's being held out as a pay-for for possible spending increases somewhere else and that's unfortunate."
But Mulvaney is not always partisan. Another one of his bills recently passed in his other committee -- Small Business. Mulvaney said he and Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) teamed up on this bipartisan measure to make it easier for small businesses to get government subcontracts.
"We took what we heard on the road, tried to fix some of the difficulties and I fully expect it to pass on the floor," Mulvaney said. "So is it going to solve the problems on taxes and spending and healthcare? No, but it's going to help folks in every district, help small businesses, and I think that's one of the things that you can point to as a success of the 112th Congress."