ICYMI: Former Trump Aide Russell Vought Is Puppeteer of the MAGA Default Crisis Strategy

“Analysts say it is virtually impossible to balance the budget without touching Social Security and Medicare — or raising taxes.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As Speaker McCarthy and MAGA House members propel the country towards a catastrophic default crisis, The Washington Post has reported that Trump’s former budget director, Russell Vought, has become the MAGA House’s intellectual leader and advisor on all things default, pushing for larger and deeper cuts and threatening essential programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

For additional commentary from House Accountability War Room senior advisor Zac Petkanas, contact [email protected]

Key Takeaways from The Washington Post: The former Trump aide crafting the House GOP’s debt ceiling playbook:


  • “But questions remain about whether Republicans can unify behind an approach that would advance big cuts to Medicaid and food stamps, programs that serve many of their constituents. Even if they can coalesce behind Vought, analysts say it is virtually impossible to balance the budget without touching Social Security and Medicare — or raising taxes.”
  • “The plan includes $2 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, the health program for the poor; more than $600 billion in cuts to the Affordable Care Act; more than $400 billion in cuts to food stamps; hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to educational subsidies; and a halving of the State Department and the Labor Department, among other federal agencies. While congressional Republicans have yet to release a budget plan, House GOP lawmakers are weighing cuts to these programs as a way to reduce the debt without touching Medicare and Social Security.”
  • “Vought’s budget proposal calls for cutting $9 trillion over the next decade from thousands of domestic programs — slashing funding for government agencies, student loans, and anti-poverty programs such as housing, health care and food assistance — while urging Republicans to attack the “woke bureaucracy.” Vought even advocates for freezing military spending, which is still anathema in many GOP circles.”
  • “Vought argues that Americans will pour into the job market because of cuts to federal aid programs, but his figures are almost certainly unrealistic, particularly because of the GOP’s opposition to higher levels of immigration, said William Galston, a former domestic policy official in President Bill Clinton’s administration who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a D.C.-based think tank.”


  • “The president of a new pro-Trump think tank called the Center for Renewing America, Vought, 46, has emerged as one of the central voices shaping the looming showdown over federal spending and the national debt. As Republicans struggle to craft a strategy for confronting the Biden administration over the debt ceiling, which limits how much the government can borrow to pay for spending Congress has already approved, Vought has supplied them with a seemingly inexhaustible stream of advice: suggestions for negotiating with the White House, briefings about dealing with the media, a 104-page memo that proposes specific spending levels for every federal agency.”
  • “Even some Republicans who admire Vought’s expertise say his budget blueprint is based on unrealistic assumptions. To make it balance in 10 years, for example, Vought’s budget also projects that the number of working Americans will increase by 14.5 million people more than Congressional Budget Office predicts, which would allow the American economy to grow faster, reducing the deficit by another $3.8 trillion.” 
  • “Several Republican lawmakers and staffers privately acknowledged talking to Vought at least once a week. Earlier this month, he briefed about four dozen GOP senators over lunch in the Capitol, according to Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who said it was at least the third time he had heard Vought’s pitch for dealing with the debt limit.” 
  • “Vought helped push for a new House panel led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to investigate the alleged “weaponization of the federal government” under President Biden.” 
  • “In the 10-year budget proposal he has circulated on Capitol Hill, Vought characterizes this approach as part of an existential battle for the soul of the country.”


  • “Most awkwardly for his current position: Vought oversaw enormous increases in the national debt as Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget. The debt ballooned by staggering sums on Vought’s watch: $1 trillion in his first year, and a whopping $4 trillion in his second, as Congress agreed on a bipartisan basis to spend trillions of dollars in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Trump repeatedly overruled fiscal hawks, like Vought, in approving the new spending.” 
  • “Vought was a polarizing figure long before the current debt limit fight. His tenure in the Trump administration was marked by controversy over his past incendiary comments about Muslims and a decision to implement a freeze on aid to Ukraine that put him at the center of the first Trump impeachment.”


  • ““He was ideological in the extreme,” said one of his former colleagues at Heritage, speaking on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe private exchanges. For instance, Vought took seriously unfounded claims that the Muslim Brotherhood extremist group had infiltrated the U.S. government, the person said. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) later challenged Vought over a blog post in which he wrote that Muslims “stand condemned” without Jesus Christ. (Vought is now again working with Heritage on the agenda for the next GOP presidential administration.)” 
  • ““America cannot be saved unless the current grip of woke and weaponized government is broken. That is the central and immediate threat facing the country — the one that all our statesmen must rise tall to vanquish,” Vought writes in his budget proposal. “The battle cannot wait.”” 


To learn more or to speak with a House Accountability War Room spokesperson, contact [email protected]