This year, for the third year in a row, the Trump administration put forward a federal budget that eliminated funding for the Special Olympics. In its most recent budget proposal kicking around the Hill this week, the Trump White House again pushed defunding the world’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. It’s a move that would save a mere $17.6 million, as part of a broader $7 billion–plus proposed cut to the Department of Education budget. Slashing the Special Olympics funding is a cut so deeply unpopular on all sides that in the past two years, lawmakers have simply ignored the White House and continued to fund the charity.
This year, however, the defunding of the Special Olympics, which relies on the U.S. government for 10 percent of its overall revenue, has been thrust to center stage. It is a gallingly cynical cut, of course, but one that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos dutifully spent three days defending, while simultaneously refusing to take responsibility for it. “As you know, [the] budget process within the administration is a collaborative one, and it’s been my responsibility to present the budget here on behalf of the administration, the president’s budget,” DeVos said during a Senate hearing Thursday. “We had to make tough choices and decisions around the budget priorities.”
So whose idea was it, then? In a normal world the buck would presumably stop with the president, but how about in the current fevered reality President Donald Trump has concocted? Not so much. “I heard about it this morning,” Trump said Thursday about his administration’s third attempt to stop funding the Special Olympics. “I have overridden my people. We’re funding the Special Olympics.” “I just told my people, I wanna fund the Special Olympics,” Trump told reporters. “I’ve been to the Special Olympics, I think it’s incredible and I just authorized a funding.”
So where does that leave the secretary of education?
“I am pleased and grateful the president and I see eye to eye on this issue, and that he’s decided to fund our Special Olympics grant,” DeVos said in response to Trump’s reversal. “This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years.”
Betsy DeVos, silent behind-the-scenes warrior for what’s right.