Backlash prompts Trump administration to preserve Special Olympics funding


WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — It may get the gold medal for the Trump administration’s fastest policy about-face.

In just 24 hours, the Special Olympics went from losing $18 million in federal funding and a possible financial crisis to being rescued by the president himself.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed the budget cut that would’ve ended government support for the popular program, which has more than a quarter-million participants across the country.

The proposal was met with swift backlash from members of Congress and the public. The outrage started during a House hearing on the Department of Education’s 2020 budget.

“Do you know how many kids are going to be affected by that cut, Madam Secretary?” Congressman Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin, asked DeVos.

“We had to make some difficult decisions with this budget,” DeVos replied.

The drama continued in a Senate budget hearing with Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin attacking the cuts.

“I want to tell you, whoever came up with that idea gets a Special Olympic gold medal for insensitivity,” the Democrat said.

Outside the hearings, Congressmen Joe Kennedy III – whose Great Aunt Eunice Shriver founded the Special Olympics – and David Cicilline kept the pressure on DeVos.

“She seemed to be saying, ‘I support Special Olympics’ and yet she was advocating for a budget that zeroed out funding, and I think her testimony was really appalling to listen to,” Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, said.

“It’s cruel, it’s misguided, and it’s outrageous,” Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, added.

In the end, the campaign to save Special Olympics funding won the race. President Trump reversed course on his way to a campaign rally in Michigan.

“I’ve just authorized a funding of the Special Olympics,” he said. “I’ve been to the Special Olympics. I think it’s incredible.”

In the days since being grilled by lawmakers, DeVos has changed her position as well. In a statement, she said, “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.”

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