President Trump announced Thursday that he was backing off a budget request to eliminate funding for the Special Olympics, reversing course after his administration weathered days of criticism for the proposed cut. Speaking to reporters as he left the White House for a rally in Michigan, Trump said he had authorized funding for the event, the AP reports. "I heard about it this morning. I have overridden my people. We're funding the Special Olympics." Trump's announcement came after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spent days defending the proposal, which drew widespread criticism from lawmakers as well as advocates and celebrities. Even before the president stepped in, legislators said the cut was unlikely to be approved. The president added: "I've been to the Special Olympics. I think it's incredible."
His comments came hours after Senate Democrats grilled DeVos during a budget hearing on the proposal. She was also pressed by House Democrats days earlier, sparking a wave of criticism online. In a heated exchange with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., DeVos said she "wasn't personally involved" in pushing for elimination of the funding, but she defended it as her agency seeks to cut $7 billion for the 2020 budget; the proposal called for the elimination of $17.6 million in funding for the Special Olympics, amounting to roughly 10% of the group's overall revenue. "Let's not use disabled children in a twisted way for your political narrative," DeVos told Durbin. "That is just disgusting and it's shameful and I think we should move on from that." DeVos said her department had to make "tough choices" on the budget and insisted the Special Olympics should be supported through private donations.
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