By Katanga Johnson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The military parade that President Donald Trump wants to stage, likely in Washington, would cost U.S. taxpayers up to $30 million, the White House budget chief said on Wednesday in remarks on the administration's fiscal 2019 spending plan.
Mick Mulvaney, who in a congressional hearing continued a broad defense of the $4.4-trillion plan he began earlier this week, was asked about the parade, which Trump's spending plan does not break out as a specific item.
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"The estimates I’ve seen, they’re very preliminary, is between $10 million and $30 million, depending upon the length," said Mulvaney, director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB). "Obviously an hour parade is different from a five-hour parade in terms of the cost and the equipment and those types of things."
According to media reports, Trump came up with the idea of showing off U.S. military might after a 2017 trip to France when he and French President Emmanuel Macron reviewed that country's defense forces marching down the Avenue des Champs-Elysees in Paris.
Trump ordered the Defense Department to look into a comparable display of military might that he could review.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last week he believed Trump wants Washington to host the parade but left open the possibility that it could be staged elsewhere.
Critics have ridiculed the idea of a costly display of troops and weapons at a time when the Pentagon is struggling to cover the expenses of training, support and personnel.
Democratic Representative Barbara Lee questioned Mulvaney at a House of Representatives Budget Committee hearing about the costs. She noted, "You know the parade is very similar to those held in authoritarian countries like North Korea."
Mulvaney said at the hearing, "We've actually had many military parades in this country before. I think we had one as recently as the 1990s, and maybe one more recently than that."
MULVANEY SAYS BACKS BUDGET
Ahead of Mulvaney's testimony, Republican committee Chairman Steve Womack asked about the deficit impact of Trump's spending plan. Mulvaney faced similar inquiries earlier this week.
At a Senate panel hearing on Tuesday, he was asked if he would vote for the Trump spending plan if he were still in Congress, which he was before Trump hired him to run OMB.
"I probably would have found enough shortcomings in this to vote against it," Mulvaney said at the time.
On Wednesday, Mulvaney walked that back, telling the House panel he thought he had been asked not about Trump's budget, but about a narrower two-year spending-caps deal.
“I read in the newspapers this morning that someone reported that I wouldn’t support this budget if I were in Congress. That is absolutely false,” Mulvaney said. “I absolutely, without reservation, support this budget."
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Cynthia Osterman)