WASHINGTON, DC – Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney touted President Trump’s record on regulations and economic growth to the Federalist Society on Wednesday, in a presentation filled with humorous references to Tiger Woods, chickens, Congress’s laziness, and “blowing stuff up.”
Mulvaney addressed the Federalist Society’s Executive Branch Review, which was held at the Mayflower Hotel a few blocks from the White House. President Trump’s top staff adviser gave the gathering of conservative and libertarian lawyers an insiders’ perspective on the president’s efforts to unleash the power of American workers and companies.
He recounted a recent meeting in the Oval Office between the president and Paul Ray, the acting director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). That is the component of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that oversees and signs off on all federal regulations. Ray became the acting director of OIRA when the Senate confirmed the permanent director of that office, Neomi Rao, to became a judge on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Ray recently updated President Trump on the administration’s progress in implementing the president’s deregulatory agenda. Mulvaney recounted a fast-paced exchange over deregulation, a topic that would seem to make ordinary people’s eyes glaze over, but which Mulvaney made entertaining and even humorous.
President Trump was going “boom, boom, boom,” Mulvaney began, animatedly describing a president who is “moving around the room, he’s interrupting you, you’re interrupting him,” as his OIRA head rattled off statistics, benchmarks, and accomplishments with enthusiasm.
“You love this job, don’t you?” Mulvaney quotes the president as saying to Ray. “For you, this is the perfect job.”
“Would you rather be Tiger Woods?” the president inquired of Ray.
“Not Tiger Woods from last week,” he clarified. “The Tiger Woods from ten years ago. Would you rather be him or you?”
“Once we achieve all of the things I’ve got on this piece of paper, Tiger Woods will want to be me!” Mulvaney recalled Ray answering, to raucous laughter from the audience.
Mulvaney crowed about how many regulations the Trump administration is repealing compared to issuing new regulations.
“Even at the most conservative measure, we’re doing four to one,” the former congressman from South Carolina told the crowd, adding to applause that the actual ratio is closer to 12 to one. He said that it equates to removing $33 billion in burdens from the private sector.
Mulvaney also talked about “opportunity zones,” which he described as “the biggest piece of the tax bill.”
President Trump’s tax legislation “allows you to grow assets in economically depressed areas tax-free,” he explained. This has resulted in “eight percent wage growth in the first six months” in these opportunity zones, as well as increases in home values.
The White House chief of staff then pivoted to Capitol Hill, and pulled no punches.
“Congress has given us so much authority” because it is “lazy,” the former congressmen asserted, and because lawmakers are more focused on political posturing than on crafting legislation with care and precision.
“They just don’t take the time to legislate,” he complained. “They just give us authority. That’s wrong.”
At the same time that lawmakers are failing to codify full-fledged public policy in statutes, they are attaching countless micromanaging restrictions on how executive officers carry out the law, such as saying that no money can be spent doing certain activities that the president’s opponents are trying to thwart.
Mulvaney also criticized civil-service protections that shield deep-state federal employees from being fired, even when they are openly working against the president’s agenda.
“I can’t tell you how hard it is to fire a government employee,” he said, adding that when he approached staff about terminating certain employees and asking about the proper procedure, “they laughed at me.”
“It’s nearly impossible for the Executive to be the Executive,” observed Mulvaney.
Though it did not come up in his speech, many legal experts in that Federalist Society audience are well aware of Humphrey’s Executor, the 1935 case in which the Supreme Court held that it is permissible for Congress to limit the president’s ability to remove certain political appointees. Originalists have long called for the Court to overrule Humphrey’s Executor, and such a decision would lay the foundation for the justices to likewise strike down civil-service tenure laws.
The Constitution’s original public meaning and the Founders’ governing philosophy require the president to have the authority to terminate anyone in the executive branch of government. Article II specifies that all executive power is vested in the president, and thus that everyone else in his administration is there to carry out his instructions. He is the one person the American people voted for to preside over the nation, so the concept of democratic accountability requires that he in turn must have the ability to hold accountable any of his subordinates who are wielding executive power in a way that undermines his agenda.
Given that Justice Brett Kavanaugh has openly called for overruling Humphrey’s Executor, it is worth watching whether such an idea might have majority support on the Supreme Court.
Mulvaney also talked enthusiastically about America’s economy in the wake of recent reports of 3.2 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth and 3.6 percent unemployment, asserting that the combination of tax cuts, regulatory rollback, and government reform has charted a course for sustained economic growth.
“This is a structural change,” Mulvaney said the data show, “not a sugar high.”
He took time to mock the ultra-left professor Paul Krugman, the academic who repeatedly prophesized (wrongly) that electing Donald Trump in 2016 would lead to a stock market crash and disastrous economic decline.
“Sooner or later you can be wrong enough where they can take away your Nobel prize,” he said, earning another round of laughter. He paraphrased Krugman – an antagonist who incessantly virtue-signals in his economic pronouncements – as having assured his New York Times readers, “You can make me complete dictator of the country, and I can do everything I need to do, and I can only get your GDP up a couple tenths of a point.”
Instead, GDP has gone from consistently being less than two percent growth under Barack Obama to now consistently over three percent growth under President Trump.
Later in his speech, Mulvaney also decried government inefficiency and waste, making the case for giving the president authority to streamline government activities. He used the example of chicken, explaining that as a chicken goes from being an egg, to an adult chicken, to food on a table, it goes from being under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and back to the FDA.
During question-and-answer time, Mulvaney was asked if there was anything the U.S. government does well. He answered yes, the government is good when it is time to “kill things and blow things up” – that is, that the White House is “extremely proud” of the U.S. military.
The Federalist Society’s Executive Branch Review is an annual conference on the size, scope, and performance of the U.S. government.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.