The White House announced in a press release Wednesday that it would nominate Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Russell Vought to lead the office as its permanent director, potentially setting up a tough confirmation fight in the Senate.
Vought has been leading the OMB since January 2019 in an acting role after the former director of the office, Mick Mulvaney, was tapped to be the White House chief of staff. Earlier this month, Trump announced Mulvaney would be reassigned as the U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., would transition to his chief of staff position.
A well-known budget hawk, Vought was one of the public faces of the president’s budget when it was released last month. He has previously worked in various leadership roles with the House Republican Conference and the Republican Study Committee and was the vice president of the conservative Heritage Action for America.
“Since joining OMB, Russ has overseen the delivery of four of the most conservative presidential budgets to date,” Heritage Foundation President Kay C. James said of the Vought nomination. “He has been an integral part of an administration that has fought fearlessly for life and liberty.”
Vought was confirmed to be the deputy director of the OMB in early 2018 by a razor-thin margin after Vice President Pence broke a 49-49 tie. The vote was strictly along party lines.
Accusations of Islamophobia based on previous writings were largely what made Vought’s confirmation so controversial. Vought, a Christian, wrote in an article defending a Christian school that fired a professor for saying Muslims and Christians worship the same God. He cited theologians in a lengthy piece, which at one point said that Muslims “do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his son, and they stand condemned.”
“Are you suggesting,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., asked Vought at a hearing, “that all of those people stand condemned? What about Jews, do they stand condemned, too?”
Vought countered, “Senator, I am a Christian,” and explained that his religion teaches respect for all “regardless of their religious beliefs.”
It is unclear when the Senate will take up Vought’s nomination. Congress is currently focused on passing multiple coronavirus relief packages, temporarily derailing what, in the Senate, has largely been a conveyer belt for Trump nominees to judicial and executive posts.