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Trump reverses course on Special Olympics funding cut after Betsy DeVos comes under fire

"The Special Olympics will be funded, I just told my people," President Trump said Thursday afternoon.
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President Donald Trump announced Thursday that a proposed $18 million cut in Special Olympics funding has been withdrawn.

"The Special Olympics will be funded, I just told my people," Trump said outside the White House.

The president's announcement comes after his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, was grilled by congressional Democrats in two hearings this week over the proposal to eliminate all federal funding for the Special Olympics.

The Special Olympics is largely funded by private donations but receives $18 million a year in federal funds that the organization said it uses for school programs for students with disabilities.

DeVos expressed support of the budget change after the president's announcement.

“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. This is funding I have fought for behind-the-scenes over the last several years,” she said.

Hours prior to Trump's announcement Thursday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., lambasted DeVos before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Durbin said that whoever is responsible for the proposed Special Olympics cut deserves a “gold medal for insensitivity," and asked DeVos, “Did you personally approve — I think a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will do — the $18 million cut of the funding for Special Olympics?”

DeVos replied, “No, I didn’t.”

“To think we can’t spend $18 million to fund this dramatically successful venture,” the senator said, stressing that this amount is only a small part of the Department of Education’s budget of more than $60 billion.

In 2017, the Special Olympics reported a total of $148 million in funding from various sources.

Two days earlier, on Tuesday, DeVos was grilled by Democratic representatives on a House subcommittee about the proposed Special Olympics cut.

Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver told MSNBC on Wednesday that losing federal funding would hurt the organization's school programs for children with intellectual disabilities and increase their “social isolation.”

At Thursday's hearing, DeVos emphasized she supports the Special Olympics. “You know I love the Special Olympics myself,” she said, adding she has given a portion of her salary from the Education Department to the organization.

The proposed Special Olympics cut came as part of the Trump administration's overall reduction of the education budget by 10 percent or $7.1 billion.

DeVos defended the proposed cuts, saying, "It's easier to keep spending," but reductions are necessary.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said the proposed reductions are "very hurtful."

"I will say to my committee members, it is hard to stomach a lecture from this administration on the danger of deficits," Murphy said, citing the government's $234 billion monthly deficit in February, the largest ever on record.