The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) is postponing the confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to run the federal Education Department.
The hearing, originally slated for January 11, has been rescheduled for January 17 at 5:00 p.m., according to an announcement by HELP chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). A tweet Monday evening from HELP Committee GOP said Alexander and ranking committee member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will “move Betsy DeVos hearing to Jan 17 at request of Senate leadership to accommodate Senate schedule”:
— HELP Committee GOP (@GOPHELP) January 10, 2017
According to a report at the Washington Post, Alexander said the postponement of DeVos’ confirmation hearing would not change the HELP committee’s schedule for a vote on her nomination on January 24.
“Betsy DeVos is an outstanding nominee who has complied with all of the committee’s requirements and no one doubts that she will be confirmed as Education Secretary,” an aide to Alexander reportedly said. “This hearing delay is simply to accommodate the Senate schedule.”
The delay follows a vocal, three-way debate over billionaire DeVos’ nomination. Establishment Democrats, who support increased taxpayer funding for public schools, have expressed concern that DeVos, a supporter of charter schools and school vouchers, has no experience with the public school system in the country. Establishment Republicans, however, are supportive of DeVos and share her passion for expanding “school choice” and school voucher systems in which taxpayer funds are transferred from public schools to private and religious schools.
The establishment of both parties has been supportive of the Common Core standards reform and its associated data collection that enhances a “workforce development” model of education. The goal of “workforce development” is a top priority of business and industry groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, which has supported amnesty for illegal immigrants and basic education that can create a low-cost workforce within the United States.
The grassroots constitutionalist base of the Republican Party – many of whom voted for Donald Trump, at least in part, because he promised to eliminate Common Core and work to get the federal government out of education – have provided a third voice in the debate about DeVos. For years, thousands of grassroots parents have worked with their state legislatures in an attempt to repeal the Common Core standards and educate lawmakers about the continued encroachment of the federal government into an area reserved by the Constitution for parents, the states, and local governments.
This grassroots base asserts that, while DeVos announced upon her nomination that she is not a supporter of Common Core, she has spent years financing and serving organizations that support the standards – and, therefore, greater federal control of education. The parents’ groups also have expressed concern about an expanded school voucher system that may be tied to greater regulation, in the name of “accountability,” for the private and religious schools that agree to participate in these programs.
Establishment Democrats, as the Post reports, pushed for the postponement of DeVos’ hearing until the Office of Government Ethics has more time to review the Michigan heiress’ significant financial holdings and search for potential conflicts of interest.
Writing at The Federalist, however, managing editor Joy Pullmann, author of the soon-to-be-released The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids, observes that the case of DeVos is a bit different:
DeVos doesn’t particularly make money from education. She gives money to education. Since her husband is a billionaire, she’s got lots to give, and to her credit she does. A review of her financial forms reveals that her ethics challenges are less likely (at least so far) in personally benefitting from government favors, but from her pre-existing influence over the Senate that has to confirm her.
Pullmann notes one of DeVos’ financial disclosures, which covers only the last five years. The nominee, she says, has donated “tens of thousands of dollars to the campaigns of senators who now are supposed to review her fitness for public office.”
Some of DeVos’ contributions are as follows to these members of the Senate HELP Committee:
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA): $7,800
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): $5,400
Sen. Todd Young (R-IN): $5,400
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC): $7,400
Politico reports that the “grand total” of DeVos’ political contributions during the past five years is “just under $5.3 million.”
DeVos’ financial affidavit shows she has also donated to the following campaigns, many of whom have come out publicly in support of the nominee, and/or will be voting on her confirmation:
Justin Amash for Congress: $8,900
SuperPAC American Crossroads, associated with Karl Rove: $200,000
Carly for President: $2,700
Citizens for Rauner, Inc.: $1,000
Comstock for Congress: $8,000
Cory Gardner for Senate: $5,200
Cotton for Senate: $5,200
Deal for Governor, Inc: $1,000
Ducey 2014: $1,000
Eric Holcomb for Governor of Indiana: $10,000
Friends of Pat Toomey: $5,400
Friends of Scott Walker: $10,000
Grassley Hawkeye Fund: $5,400
House Republican Campaign Committee: $300,000
Illinois Republican Party: $10,000
Indiana Republican Party: $10,000
Jeb 2016: $2,700
Jindal for President: $2,700
John Kennedy for US Senate: $2,700
John McCain for Senate: $1,000
Joni for Iowa: $2,600
Kasich for America: $2,700
Kirk for Senate: $5,400
Marco Rubio for President: $2,700
Marco Rubio for US Senate: $5,400
Martinez for Governor: $1,000
McConnell Senate Committee ’14: $2,600
Michigan Chamber PAC: $30,000
Michigan Republican Party: $652,000
National Republican Senate Committee: $114,200
New Mexico Republican Party: $5,000
Perdue for Senate: $2,600
Portman for Senate Committee: $5,400
Republican Governor’s Association: $125,000
Republican Legislative Campaign Committee: $50,000
Republican National Committee: $215,000
Republican Party of Florida: $10,000
Rick Scott for Governor: $5,000
Romney for President: $5,000
Ron Johnson for Senate: $5,400
Rounds for Senate: $5,200
Roy Blunt for Senate: $2,700
Ryan for Congress: $5,400
Scott Walker, Inc: $2,700
Senate Republican Campaign Committee: $160,000
Steve Daines for Montana: $5,200
Sullivan for US Senate: $2,600
The Richard Burr Committee: $5,400
Thom Tillis for Senate: $5,200
“Given all the DeVos money floating around Washington, how likely are Republican senators to ask her some fair but critical questions about a woman who would oversee some $70 billion in annual public funding and 5,000 public employees?” asks Pullmann.