Democrats are outraged over Education Secretary Betsey DeVos‘ proposed a new department budget that includes cutting all $18 million of federal funding to the Special Olympics. Lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives are reassuring the public that they will fight for the organization’s funding.
“This will never happen. Full stop,” Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) tweeted Tuesday. “But the mere suggestion illustrates how little this Administration values the Americans and families they pledge to serve.”
This will never happen. Full stop. But the mere suggestion illustrates how little this Administration values the Americans and families they pledge to serve. https://t.co/XtaSRt0MlM
— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) March 27, 2019
While many Democrats have spoken out against the proposed cut, Kennedy’s ties to the groups are more personal. The Special Olympics was founded by Kennedy’s great-aunt and former President John F. Kennedy’s sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, in 1968.
“The Special Olympics is about a simple, bedrock value of our country: everyone counts,” Kennedy said in a statement to IJR.
“Anyone who has ever seen the smile of an athlete, the dedication of a coach and the embrace of a community knows that their value goes well beyond any number in a line item. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, to make sure that we continue to celebrate those champions.”
DeVos was grilled on her decision to cut the Special Olympics and other special education funding at a House hearing Tuesday. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) let the secretary know that 272,000 children would be affected by the Special Olympics cut.
“Let me just say that I think the Special Olympics is an awesome organization,” DeVos retaliated. “One that is well-supported by the philanthropic sector as well.”
Pocan pointed out the Education Department’s proposed cuts to other special education programs, such as special education grants, National Technical Institute for the Blind, and Gallaudet University.
“What is it that we have a problem with children who are in special education?” the Wisconsin congressman asked. “Why are we cutting all of these programs over and over within this budget?”
Watch the video below:
In @BetsyDeVosED’s budget, there are major cuts to programs like the Special Olympics. Sec. DeVos didn’t know the number of kids who would be hurt by that cut, so I made sure she now knows that 272,000 kids are seeing their support taken away. pic.twitter.com/6ZiOfDU4Ou
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) March 26, 2019
After Tuesday’s hearing, more Democratic lawmakers spoke up about the Special Olympics cut. Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) called the cut a “disgrace.”
A total disgrace that Betsy DeVos wants to cut all federal funding for the Special Olympics.
— Mike Levin (@MikeLevinCA) March 27, 2019
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) also criticized the Education Department’s cuts for autism programs.
“This is just disgusting and we are not going to stand for it,” he tweeted.
This is just disgusting and we are not going to stand for it.
Congress must block Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos' attempts to end funding for the Special Olympics, initiatives to address autism, and other developmental disability programs. https://t.co/olsSVibjNH
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) March 26, 2019
The onslaught of criticism from House members showed that the Democratic-led body will be a tough hurdle for DeVos and her department to overcome.
“No one ever said, hey let’s go hurt Special Olympics. Until the [Trump] Administration came along,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tweeted.
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) March 27, 2019
Democrats in the Senate also showed their support for the Special Olympics. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he would fight to keep funding, especially in his position in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“To be clear, it is Secretary DeVos and President Trump who propose eliminating support for the Special Olympics,” the senator wrote on Twitter. “That’s indefensible. As vice chair of the Appropriations Committee I will continue to strongly support the Special Olympics.”
Editor’s Note: This article was updated for clarity after publication.