White House press secretary Jen Psaki smiles at the Easter Bunny during a press briefing at the White House on Monday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki smiles at the Easter Bunny during a press briefing at the White House on Monday. Evan Vucci / AP

White House Blames Transition in Part for Delay in Releasing Budget Preview

Not having a confirmed budget office leader was another factor, said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

The White House blamed the Trump administration’s lack of cooperation during the transition in part for the delay in releasing the Biden administration’s budget preview. 

The president was expected to release a “discretionary guide” last week, but that did not happen in part due to disagreements between the White House and Pentagon on funding levels, as Bloomberg News and PunchBowl News reported. The White House has been reiterating that the short budget preview will be out “soon,” with minimal details. 

During a briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki still said the budget preview was coming “soon,” but when asked for more information said there was some “impactful intransigence from the outgoing political appointees,” during the transition. “We had some cooperation from the career staff, but we didn’t have all of the information that we needed.” 

In late-December, then-President elect Biden specifically called out the Defense Department and Office of Management and Budget for obstructing the transition, which was “nothing short of irresponsible.” Transition officials also spoke about “pockets of resistance,” which came as Trump was refusing to concede the election and challenging the validity of the election results. The Washington Post reported shortly after the news networks called the race for Biden that Trump’s OMB was still directing agencies to work on Trump’s fiscal 2022 budget, to the surprise of several career employees. 

Then-OMB director Russell Vought sent a letter to the transition team pushing back on claims that the Trump administration was not being helpful. “As the record shows, OMB has fully participated in appropriate transition efforts,” he wrote. “What we have not done and will not do is use current OMB staff to write the [Biden transition team’s] legislative policy proposals to dismantle this administration's work.” 

Additionally, Psaki noted that up until recently there was not a confirmed person serving as OMB leader, which has also contributed to the delay in releasing the budget outline. Rob Fairweather, an OMB career staffer, was tapped as acting director on January 20. Shalanda Young was installed as the acting leader on March 24, after being confirmed as OMB deputy director. 

Young becoming acting director was “an important step forward,” said Psaki. There will be a discretionary guide (which will be a short document), a “skinny” budget and then a “longer” budget. The administration is not necessarily waiting for the confirmed director for any of these releases, Psaki said.

The White House has yet to name a new nominee for OMB director after Neera Tanden withdrew her name on March 2, amid calls from lawmakers from both parties to make Young the director. Psaki didn’t have an update on the timing for the announcement of a new pick. 

The reports of the clash with the Pentagon over funding levels did not come up during the briefing. 

Presidents Trump, Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton released details of their first budgets in some form between February 17 and March 16 in their first terms, Roll Call reported. Although Biden has fallen behind on this timeline, he signed his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan into law on March 11 and then released a $2 trillion infrastructure plan on March 31. 

Federal News Network reported last week that the administration is considering a 2.7% pay raise for civilian federal employees in 2022. It is unclear if this will be included in the anticipated budget preview.