Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Russell Vought speaks to reporters during a press conference at the White House in Washington, the United States, on March 11, 2019.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
The head of the White House budget office on Thursday refused to direct staff and resources to help with the incoming Biden administration's spending plans, amid an escalating dispute over what responsibilities the office has during the transition process.
Russ Vought, Office of Management and Budget Director, pushed back allegations of disability made by President-elect Joe Biden's transition team, adding that his agency will not partner with alleged efforts to "dismantle" Trump administrative policies.
"Our system of government has a president and an administration," said Vought in a letter to Biden's interim chief Ted Kaufman.
Vought's letter, posted publicly on his Twitter account, fueled the simmering dispute between President Donald Trump's administration and the incoming Biden team.
Biden transition members did not immediately comment on Vought's letter. But Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for Biden, retweeted critical news, stating that Vought: "While calling the allegations false … he is actually confirming that he is preventing OMB careers from submitting the next year's budget request to work."
In a speech on Monday, Biden highlighted OMB and Defense Department leaders for setting up "roadblocks" that hampered his efforts to prepare for the presidency.
"Right now we just don't get all of the information we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas," Biden said at the time. "In my opinion, it's nothing less than irresponsibility."
Acting defense chief Christopher Miller responded later that day, saying in a statement that the Pentagon's efforts "have outstripped those of the youngest administrations in more than three weeks."
In a virtual briefing on Wednesday, the new White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Biden's advisor Yohannes Abraham criticized these agencies again.
"There is no question that the process will be delayed by what we've seen from the outgoing OMB," said Abraham. "It takes man-hours to prepare the budget and requires the analytical support that was part of OMB's commitment to previous transitions that we have not received."
In the past, the OMB has provided incoming administrations with economic and budgetary information well in advance of Inauguration Day in order to prepare them for the swift submission of the new President's budget. The document is technically due on the first Monday in February, but has been delayed in the past.
Bloomberg reported earlier Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter, that Vought was preventing members of the Biden team from meeting with budget officials as he intended to finalize and publish new regulations before the Trump administration ends goes.
In his letter to Kaufman, Vought said the record shows that "OMB has fully participated in reasonable transition efforts."
Vought said the budget agency held more than 45 meetings with Biden staff and provided "all information requested" about ongoing programs. He also said Biden's team was briefed on the Trump administration's coronavirus relief efforts, including Operation Warp Speed, the White House's vaccine development and distribution plan.
"What we have not and will not do is use the current OMB staff to draft the legislative proposals of the Biden transition team to dismantle the work of this government," Vought said in his letter.
"OMB staff are working on the policies of this administration and will continue to do so through the last day of their tenure. Redirecting staff and resources to develop your team's budget proposals is not the responsibility of OMB transition."
Vought added, "OMB will not be involved in developing strategies that will weaken border security, undermine the president's deregulation successes, and draft budgets that will bankrupt America."