Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Russell Vought speaks to reporters during a press conference at the White House in Washington, the United States, on March 11, 2019.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
The head of the White House budget office on Thursday refused to direct staff and resources to help with the incoming Biden administration’s spending plans, amid an escalating dispute over what responsibilities the office has during the transition process.
Russ Vought, Office of Management and Budget Director, pushed back allegations of disability made by President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, adding that his agency will not partner with alleged efforts to “dismantle” Trump administrative policies.
“Our system of government has a president and an administration,” said Vought in a letter to Biden’s interim chief Ted Kaufman.
Vought’s letter, posted publicly on his Twitter account, fueled the simmering dispute between President Donald Trump’s administration and the incoming Biden team.
Biden spokesman Andrew Bates in a statement called it “unacceptable” amid a time of economic hardship, “hampering the US government’s ability to budget and efficiently aid those most in need, in particular explicit reasons. ” , declared partiality. “
“The last two paragraphs of this letter confirm exactly what the transition said yesterday and contradict the opening of the letter with an openly political admission of what is really happening – given the way OMB works during each change of presidency for decades,” said Bates . “The president-elect will continue to work in good faith to get our country out of this emergency as quickly as possible. There is a responsible approach.”
In a speech on Monday, Biden highlighted OMB and Defense Department leaders for setting up “roadblocks” that hampered his efforts to prepare for the presidency.
“Right now we just don’t get all of the information we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas,” Biden said at the time. “In my opinion, it’s nothing less than irresponsibility.”
Acting defense chief Christopher Miller responded later that day, saying in a statement that the Pentagon’s efforts “have outstripped those of the youngest administrations in more than three weeks.”
In a virtual briefing on Wednesday, the new White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Biden’s advisor Yohannes Abraham criticized these agencies again.
“There is no question that the process will be delayed by what we’ve seen from the outgoing OMB,” said Abraham. “It takes man-hours to prepare the budget and requires the analytical support that was part of OMB’s commitment to previous transitions that we have not received.”
In the past, OMB has provided incoming administrations with economic and budgetary information well in advance of Inauguration Day in order to prepare them for the swift submission of the new President’s budget. The document is technically due on the first Monday in February, but has been delayed in the past.
Bloomberg reported earlier Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter, that Vought was preventing members of the Biden team from meeting with budget officials as he intended to finalize and publish new regulations before the Trump administration ends goes.
In his letter to Kaufman, Vought said the record shows that “OMB has fully participated in reasonable transition efforts.”
Vought said the budget agency held more than 45 meetings with Biden staff and provided “all information requested” about ongoing programs. He also said Biden’s team was briefed on the Trump administration’s coronavirus relief efforts, including Operation Warp Speed, the White House’s vaccine development and distribution plan.
“What we didn’t and won’t do is use current OMB staff to write this [Biden transition team’s] Legislative proposals to dismantle the work of this government, “Vought said in his letter.
“OMB staff are working on the policies of this administration and will continue to do so through the last day of their tenure. Redirecting staff and resources to develop your team’s budget proposals is not the responsibility of the OMB transition.”
Vought added, “OMB will not be involved in developing strategies that weaken border security, undermine the president’s deregulation successes, and draft budgets that will bankrupt America.”