DeVos defends Special Olympics cuts at Senate hearing

Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosHillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records A brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats MORE told a top Senate Democrat not to "use disabled children in a twisted way for your political narrative" on Thursday as she defended her proposal to eliminate federal funding for the Special Olympics.

DeVos, who faced tough questions from Democrats on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on education about her fiscal 2020 budget cuts, called the criticism "disgusting and shameful."

ADVERTISEMENT

"I love Special Olympics. I have given a portion of my salary to Special Olympics. I hope all of this debate inspires private contributions to Special Olympics," DeVos told Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations Senate approves long-delayed tax treaties in win for business MORE (D-Ill.) during a heated exchange.

"Let’s not use disabled children in a twisted way for your political narrative, that is just disgusting and shameful and I think we should move on from that," she added.

DeVos's comments came as Durbin pressed the secretary on whether she personally approved the decision to cut the $18 million in funds for the Special Olympics from the budget.

“Whoever came up with that idea at [the Office of Management and Budget] gets a Special Olympic Gold Medal for insensitivity,” Durbin, the Senate Democratic whip, told DeVos.

“As you know, budgeting within the administration is a collaborative one,” DeVos responded. “As I said then and I’ll say again, we had to make tough choices and decisions around budget priorities."

The secretary added that she had not personally approved the decision.

The decision to cut funding for the Special Olympics has sparked a firestorm of controversy.

DeVos was also grilled on the decision Wednesday before a House panel.

She told that panel that she had to make some "difficult decisions." DeVos added that while she personally supports the event, the Special Olympics raises more than $100 million in private donations and that there are other important programs that need federal funds.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm Top Democrat demands answers on election equipment vulnerabilities MORE (R-Mo.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on education, said Wednesday that he would reject those cuts.

"I’m a longtime supporter of the Special Olympics and proud that Missouri is home to the largest Special Olympics training facility in the world," the senator said in a statement.