Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been taking heat this week for cutting funding from the Special Olympics in its budget proposal this year, but a department official familiar with the process who spoke with CNN said it was the White House Office of Management and Budget that insisted on revoking funding, not DeVos.
DeVos, though, was the one who had to appear before Congress and defend the decision by the government to cut the $18 million in funding for the event, only to have President Donald Trump restore it two days later.
Another staff member who spoke with CNN described the fallout as the “week from hell.”
Sec. DeVos: "We had to make some difficult decisions with this budget."
Rep. Pocan: "I have two nephews with autism, what is it that we have a problem with with children who are in special education? Why are we cutting all these programs over and over in within this budget?" pic.twitter.com/GRDISGZLPc
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 27, 2019
Department staffers said that their budget proposals had included money for the Special Olympics, but the Office of Management and Budget kept rejecting it.
After the cuts received a flurry of negative news coverage, the president decided to restore funding. “The Special Olympics will be funded,” Trump told reporters, adding, “I have overridden my people, we’re funding the Special Olympics.” He also claimed he “had no idea” about the proposed cuts until the press started reporting it.
President Trump responds to news that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was proposing a cut to Special Olympics funding: “I just authorized a funding of the Special Olympics. … I have overridden my people, we’re funding the Special Olympics” https://t.co/Xk2PkovwDu pic.twitter.com/Kg0tmw7XzU
— CNN (@CNN) March 28, 2019
After Trump reinstated the funds, DeVos issued a statement saying she was “pleased and grateful the President and I see eye-to-eye on this issue.” She added, “This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years.” That last statement contradicts what DeVos said to Congress, but two people familiar with the process confirmed DeVos’s characterization to CNN.
The Office of Management and Budget also released a statement of its own: “The President trusts his agencies and staff to implement his goals, yet when he learned of this issue, he has a big heart and made an executive decision. While the budget requests over $13 billion for special education, this administration has also always made clear that the Special Olympics is a worthy cause. His announcement yesterday does not change the overall goals of the budget and we will work with Congress to ensure the President’s priorities and agenda are advanced on behalf of the American people.”
Sounds like once again the White House was caught in crisis of its own making.