Mick Mulvaney admitted in he failed to pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes
"Nobody is more qualified and more prepared to rein in Washington," Trump's team said
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that a report that Rep. Mick Mulvaney did not pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a household employee was “disqualifying” for him to serve as White House budget director.
“When other previous cabinet nominees failed to pay their fair share in taxes, Senate Republicans forced those nominees to withdraw from consideration,” the New York Democrat said in a statement. “If failure to pay taxes was disqualifying for Democratic nominees, then the same should be true for Republican nominees.”
Mulvaney admitted in a questionnaire, a portion of which was provided by a congressional source to CNN Wednesday and sent to the Senate Budget Committee that he failed to pay the taxes in question. In the questionnaire provided to CNN, Mulvaney wrote that, “Upon discovery of that shortfall, I paid the federal taxes,” adding that the relevant penalties and interest “are not yet determined.”
The New York Times first reported on the questionnaire Wednesday.
A source from President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team told CNN that Mulvaney, who at the time was the father of newborn triplets, hired a “sitter” and didn’t realize he needed to pay taxes on her income. The aide declined to say where the employee was from.
“He was shown paperwork at the time that indicated she was here in the US legally and could work,” the source told CNN, adding, “this mistake was made as he brought home newborn triplets from the NICU and was trying to get some help for his family.”
Trump’s transition team responded by calling attention to comments Schumer made defending Obama’s former treasury secretary Timothy Geithner who admitted to paying self-employment taxes from 2001-2004.
“The fact of the matter is that nobody is more qualified and more prepared to fight to rein in Washington spending and fight for taxpayers than Mick Mulvaney,” transition spokesman John Czwartacki said in a statement. “Congressman Mulvaney raised the issue surrounding the care of his premature triplets immediately upon being tapped for this position, and has taken the appropriate follow-up measures.”
At a press conference on Wednesday, Schumer invoked the case of former Democratic Senator Tom Daschle, who was forced to withdraw as President Barack Obama’s nominee as Health and Human Services secretary in 2009 after it was discovered he failed to pay taxes for a driver and for unreported income. The New York Democrat told reporters on Capitol Hill that like Daschle, because of the unpaid taxes, Mulvaney, a South Carolina congressman, “shouldn’t be there.”
But the source close to Mulvaney pushed back at the comparison to Daschle, saying “”is a stretch to say the least,” noting the amount of the unpaid tax by Daschle was significantly higher than the $15,000 Mulvaney paid after he discovered his mistake.
Mulvaney is known as an advocate for financial conservatism, and past revelations of failing to pay taxes have kept the Senate from supporting nominees.
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn downplayed the report.
“I’m sure they’ll try to grab for every straw they can to delay the President-elect’s Cabinet,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I think there should be a thorough vetting, and people should have to answer all the hard questions. But delay for delay’s sake should be unacceptable.”
CNN’s Manu Raju, Tal Kopan and Tom LoBianco contributed to this report.