In recent weeks, former Office of Management Budget (OMB) Director Russ Vought has become the center of attention over the debt ceiling showdown. Republican lawmakers have privately met with Vought to pitch $150 billion in spending cuts as part of the negotiations to raise the debt ceiling. Vought—a former Trump cabinet official—maintains that the discussions will not center on cuts to Social Security and Medicare. However, his ties to MAGA Republicans and his time at OMB paint a different picture.

Following his time in the Trump Administration, Vought founded the Center for Renewing America (CRA), hiring former OMB and Trump officials to “sustain Trump’s political movement.” CRA has extensive financial ties to the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), which itself has deep ties to fringe lawmakers in the House, many of whom are a part of the House Freedom Caucus.

  • During his time at OMB, Vought helped oversee numerous Trump budget proposals which would significantly cut Medicare and Social Security over a ten year period. In 2019, Trump’s budget proposal called for slashing Medicaid by $1.5 trillion, Medicare by $845 billion, and Social Security by $25 billion over ten years. However, Vought claimed Trump was “keeping his commitment” to not cut entitlement programs. Trump’s 2020 budget proposal again called for slashing Medicare by $451 billion, with Vought defending the president saying: “reducing the cost of health care is not a cut.” Vought—in an “unprecedented” move—also obstructed the incoming Biden Administration in 2020 from meeting with career OMB officials, delaying the development of President Biden’s first budget proposal.
  • In January 2023, Vought revealed during a Fox News appearance that he was “involved in the negotiations” and helped to write the rules package for MAGA Republicans for the 118th Congress. Vought pushed the House Republican leadership to align themselves with the House Freedom Caucus, arguing that conservative voters expect to get a House Freedom Caucus member when voting for a Republican candidate.
  • CRA also employs former Trump DOJ official Jeff Clark—CRA’s Senior Fellow and Director of Litigation—who was investigated for his involvement to try and overturn the 2020 presidential election while at the Department of Justice. Kash Patel—a former Trump administration National Security Council official and Senior Fellow for National Security and Intelligence at CRA—pushed a false narrative that Trump declassified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago resort in August 2022.
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