The Senate confirmed Russ Vought to lead the Office of Management and Budget on Monday, more than a year after he was tapped as interim director of the agency.
Vought's tenure as acting OMB director has drawn bipartisan scrutiny, including from Republicans who have opposed two failed attempts by the administration to yank back billions in foreign aid.
Democrats have criticized Vought for stonewalling congressional oversight demands, and last year he defied a subpoena after refusing to answer questions about the administration's decision to freeze hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine last summer.
That decision prompted House Democrats to launch an impeachment inquiry into whether President Donald Trump leveraged the aid for political favors. But Vought has maintained that the Ukraine aid freeze was part of a broader foreign aid review, not a quid pro quo.
Vought first took the helm of the White House budget office during the 35-day government shutdown in January 2019, after Trump tapped former OMB Director Mick Mulvaney as his acting chief of staff.
Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) lauded Vought’s confirmation in a statement, adding that his “role will be crucial to help the federal government function in what is shaping up to be a very challenging budget environment that requires the attention of every one of us.“
“I look forward to working with him to help put our nation on a better fiscal path,” said Enzi, who’s retiring after this year.
But Vought has so far unsuccessfully pushed unpopular cuts to rein in federal spending, despite the president’s 2016 campaign pledge to balance the federal budget.
Even before the pandemic, the nation’s budget gap expanded after the administration and Congress embraced the Republican tax revamp in 2017 and a two-year budget deal last summer. The federal deficit is now on track to balloon to nearly $4 trillion this year after Congress mounted a colossal response to the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year.
Vought has also repeatedly drawn the ire of Democrats for stonewalling congressional oversight demands and subpoenas for testimony and information.
During a House Budget Committee hearing in February, Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) asked Vought to pledge transparency in how OMB manipulates federal dollars, in addition to a promise that OMB will adhere to federal budget laws.
“Now, when American lives and livelihoods depend on the effectiveness of the federal government and the proper implementation of fiscal policy, it is critical that Director Vought honor his commitments,” Yarmuth said in a statement on Monday. “I will honor my promise to hold him to his word.”