Trump Picks Budget Hawk Russ Vought As OMB Director As Coronavirus Crashes Economy

Mar 18, 2020
Originally published on March 18, 2020 7:49 pm

President Trump said Wednesday he will nominate his acting budget director, Russ Vought, to be the permanent director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Vought has been serving as OMB's acting director since January 2019, when Mick Mulvaney departed to step in as Trump's acting chief of staff, a role that has since ended, with Mulvaney now serving as U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland.

Vought, a budget hawk and former conservative activist, still has to be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate.

The announcement comes as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down large parts of the economy, and the federal government pushes vast spending proposals to counteract the widespread economic damage.

Those sweeping stimulus plans, or what Trump has dubbed a "go big" approach, expected to be a $1 trillion dollar spending package, stand in sharp contrast to Vought's fiscal conservative values.

If passed, Trump's rescue plan would be the costliest stimulus measure in modern American history.

Last week, Vought, who has championed the Trump administration's deregulatory push, defended the Trump administration's proposed $25 million budget cuts to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's public health preparedness and response programs. The budget also calls for an additional $39 million slashed to the CDC's global health program.

The budget reductions were of a piece with the White House's other desired cuts to health service spending in Trump's proposed 2021 budget, including reductions to the National Institutes of Health.

When questioned about the controversial cost-costing during a congressional hearing last week, as the coronavirus spread nationwide, Vought said the administration stood by the proposals. He pointed to a $8.3 billion emergency package passed by Congress and signed by the president to address the coronavirus crisis.

Vought also was the subject of a subpoena from House investigators during the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

He was among numerous Trump administration officials House Democrats sought the testimony of in probing the freezing of military aid as part a campaign to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into Trump's political rivals.

Vought did not comply with the subpoenas after the White House ordered that he and others ignore the requests.

According to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, the temporary hold on aid to Ukraine represented a violation of budget law.

The OMB said it did not overstep its authority.

Trump formalizinh his pick of Vought as OMB director comes a day after Dale Cabaniss, director of the president's Office of Personnel Management, abruptly resigned.

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