Trump pledges to fund Special Olympics, reversing proposal by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

  • President Donald Trump on Thursday said he had "overridden" proposed cuts to the U.S. government's funding of the Special Olympics.
  • The announcement appeared to reverse the previously proposed elimination of approximately $18 billion in funding for the games, which had appeared in the Department of Education's proposed budget.
  • The proposal sparked a public outcry, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos struggled to defend the cuts during a congressional hearing earlier this week.
President Donald Trump speaks to the press before departing the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, December 7, 2018. 
Jim Young | Reuters
President Donald Trump speaks to the press before departing the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, December 7, 2018. 

President Donald Trump on Thursday said he had "overridden" proposed cuts to the U.S. government's funding of the Special Olympics, telling reporters at the White House, "The Special Olympics will be funded."

"I just authorized the funding of the Special Olympics," Trump said. "I heard about [the proposed cuts] this morning ... and I have overridden my people."

The announcement appeared to reverse the previously proposed elimination of approximately $18 million in government funding for the games, which had first appeared in the 2020 budget of the Department of Education.

The proposal sparked a public outcry.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos struggled to defend the cuts during congressional hearings this week, where she told senators the cuts represented only a fraction of the "tough choices" the department had to make about funding. "I hope all of this debate encourages lots of private contributions to Special Olympics," she said.

From the outset, DeVos' proposed cuts were unlikely to pass in Congress, which has the final say on federal budget appropriations.

"I've been to the Special Olympics, and I think it's incredible, and I just authorized a funding," Trump said Thursday. It was unclear precisely what Trump meant when he said he had "authorized" the funding.

Shortly after the president spoke, DeVos issued her own statement in which she appeared to disavow the budget she had defended only hours earlier.

"I am pleased and grateful the president and I see eye-to-eye on this issue, and that he has decided to fund our Special Olympics grant," DeVos said. "This is funding I have fought for behind-the-scenes over the last several years."