President Donald Trump overrode his budget team and backed funding for the Special Olympics on Thursday after his proposed cuts to the athletic program drew heavy fire from both Republicans and Democrats, Reuters informs.
Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020, which he released earlier this month, would have zeroed out funding for the Special Olympics, which has an allocation of $17.6 million this fiscal year.
There was no sign that Congress was going to agree to defund the popular Special Olympics program in spite of Trump’s proposal. He had sought to cut funding last year as well and lawmakers added the funding back into the budget.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had struggled to defend the proposal in testimony to Congress and both Trump’s Republicans and opposition Democrats had denounced the move.
“As you know, budgeting within the administration is a collaborative one. As I said then, and I’ll say again, we had to make tough choices and decisions around budget priorities,” DeVos had said earlier on Thursday.
She struggled to explain the decision this week as lawmakers grilled her during an appearance on Capitol Hill.
“I still can’t understand why you would go after disabled children in your budget,” the congresswoman Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, told DeVos at a hearing. “You zero that out. It’s appalling.”
DeVos subsequently defended the move in a statement that sparked its own controversy for blaming the media, without evidence, of misrepresenting the proposed cuts but then acknowledging them to be true, Guardian writes.
DeVos added that while she personally supported the Special Olympics and its mission, the federal government “cannot fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations.”
“There are dozens of worthy nonprofits that support students and adults with disabilities that don’t get a dime of federal grant money,” DeVos added.
The Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities or physical disabilities. In a speech, Trump said he had just heard about the controversy on Thursday morning.
“I’ve been to the Special Olympics, I think it’s incredible and I just authorized a funding,” Trump said. “I heard about it this morning. I have overridden my people. We’re funding the Special Olympics.”
Trump’s budget proposed $17.6m in cuts to the Special Olympics as part of an overall 10% reduction in the budget for the department of education.