Then-acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought listens during a Cabinet meeting in the East Room of the White House on May 19.

Then-acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought listens during a Cabinet meeting in the East Room of the White House on May 19. Evan Vucci / AP

Senate Confirms Acting OMB Chief to Be Permanent Director

Russell Vought has said he will "be as responsive as we possibly can" to Congress and prioritize requests from overseers related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Late Monday afternoon, the Senate voted 51-45, along party lines, to confirm acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought to fill the position permanently.  

Vought was the OMB deputy director from early in the Trump administration and then took over as acting OMB head in January 2019 when Mick Mulvaney left to become the president’s acting chief of staff. President Trump announced his intent to nominate Vought as the permanent OMB director on March 18. Vought has been able to remain as acting director due to two exceptions under the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which typically precludes acting officials from remaining in their roles once they are formally nominated. 

As acting director, Vought has pushed for evidence-based policy making, championed the administration’s deregulatory agenda and handled the aftermath of the longest government shutdown in history. Also, during Vought’s tenure watchdogs and Democratic lawmakers have raised concerns about the Trump administration's perceived lack of cooperation with various investigative probes. 

During his confirmation hearing in June, Vought said he will “be as responsive as we possibly can” to Congress and “certainly work with [the Government Accountability Office] closely [since] it is our practice to do that.” He also said he would prioritize requests about the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Now, as permanent leader of OMB, Vought will continue work on presidential transition planning, deregulation to boost the faltering economy from the pandemic, United States’ withdrawal from World Health Organization, agencies’ use of coronavirus relief funds and the budget process. 

“I am pleased to see Mr. Vought confirmed to this vital position at OMB because of the many pressing fiscal issues facing our nation,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said upon confirmation. “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.”

Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., chairman of the House Budget Committee, said: 

“When Mr. Vought appeared before the House Budget Committee last February, I called on him to assure the committee that, under his leadership, OMB would be transparent in how it manages the people’s money and would respect the rule of law and Congress’ proper role. 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. I will honor my promise to hold him to his word.”

Earlier this month, Vought sent the mid-session review of the fiscal 2021 budget to Congress. The first version of the budget request released in February outlined the Trump administration's plan to “resize” the federal government by eliminating what the administration views as duplicative and wasteful programs in order to focus on core security priorities. 

The mid-year report “is a dereliction of duty and a new low for Mr. Vought’s OMB,” Yarmuth said. “The report not only fails to provide Congress with key updated economic and fiscal projections, it provides zero guidance or leadership on the fundamental challenges facing our nation: how best to move forward, protect public health, or rebuild our economy in the face of a deadly, highly contagious virus that has already taken the lives of more than 120,000 Americans.”

The Senate Budget Committee did not comment on the report. However, Enzi said, ‘Responding to [the health and economic crisis] makes the OMB’s work more important than ever, especially as America faces more than $26 trillion in debt,” during a confirmation hearing for another OMB official in June. “The government wide inventory of federal programs that OMB is working on will help lawmakers make better-informed spending decisions. Knowing exactly where taxpayer money is going is an important part of a working budget process… [and] can also help the government eliminate duplication.”

Separately, on Friday, President Trump announced his intent to appoint Mary Vought, Russell Vought’s wife, to be a member of the National Council on Disability.