Vought confirmed as White House budget director

Democrats view acting budget chief as a firebrand; Vought chided for involvement in Ukraine aid holdup

Russell Vought, left, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, talks with ranking member Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., before the House Budget Committee hearing on the White House's fiscal 2021 budget request on Wednesday, February 12, 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Russell Vought, left, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, talks with ranking member Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., before the House Budget Committee hearing on the White House's fiscal 2021 budget request on Wednesday, February 12, 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted July 20, 2020 at 6:15pm

After running President Donald Trump's budget office on an acting basis for the past 18 months, Russell Vought can now claim the job is officially his own.

The Senate confirmed Vought’s nomination to be director of the Office of Management and Budget on a party-line 51-45 vote. The outcome was hardly in doubt, since the Senate had agreed to advance Vought on a procedural vote of 47-44 just before the Independence Day recess.

Vought has served as acting director since January 2019, when his predecessor, Mick Mulvaney, became the acting White House chief of staff. Vought had previously served as deputy OMB director under Mulvaney.

Since coming to the White House, Vought has suffered through frosty relations with Democrats, who view him as a conservative firebrand. Vought was a vice president at Heritage Action, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation. He previously had served as policy director for the House Republican Conference under Vice President Mike Pence, when Pence was an Indiana lawmaker.

Democrats were further angered by Vought’s role in temporarily freezing military aid to Ukraine last year as Trump pushed Ukraine’s president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said the aid freeze violated budget law, although the White House denied any wrongdoing.

The Senate Budget Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced Vought’s nomination last month along strict party lines, as Democrats again raised the aid freeze that contributed to Trump’s impeachment.

“It seems to be a metaphor for this administration that they would submit to this Senate as their nominee to head OMB the person who our congressional watchdog concluded violated the law,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., at a Budget Committee nomination hearing. “And it will be a metaphor for this Congress abdicating its responsibilities with respect to the executive branch if we approve the nomination of the person found to have violated the law that Congress enacted to protect our powers of the purse.”

At the same hearing, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called Vought “unfit and unqualified” to lead the budget office. But Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., praised Vought as a “constructive, transparent, accessible person.”

Vought has largely played a behind-the-scenes role in working with Congress. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has served as the administration’s point man in negotiations on spending deals, budget agreements and coronavirus relief packages.