Capitol Correspondence - 01.19.17

Education Secretary Nominee Faces Tough Questions at Senate Hearing

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On January 17, Betsy DeVos appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. DeVos has been nominated by President-Elect Donald Trump to head the Department of Education (DOE). As a nominee for a cabinet-level position, DeVos must be confirmed by the Senate. The HELP hearing was the first step in this process. 

Republicans praised DeVos’ committment to school choice and state flexibility in matters of education. Former Connecticut Senator and past Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman introduced DeVos to the Committee and strongly supported her nomination. Committe Democrats hammered DeVos hard with questions about her and her family’s financial entanglements and seeming lack of expertise on basic education principles.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) questioned DeVos about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and whether she believed that all schools that receive federal funding should be required to meet the law’s requirements. DeVos responded that she believed this is a matter that should be left to the states. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) followed up, by clarifying whether DeVos meant to say that states should be able to choose whether to follow a federal civil rights law. When pressed on whether DeVos understood that IDEA was a federal law, DeVos responded that she “may have confused it.” 

The full hearing video, as well as written testimony, is available here