Congress has scheduled a Jan. 11 confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, even as opposition to her is growing and Democrats are reportedly trying to postpone the proceedings until she fully discloses information about her finances and conflicts of interest.
DeVos is a Michigan billionaire who is a former Republican Party state chairman and a longtime school-choice activist. Public school advocates oppose her nomination because of her involvement in the expansion of unregulated charter schools in Michigan, her support of school vouchers and her comments that critics see as hostile to public schools, such as in 2015 when she said:
We are the beneficiaries of start-ups, ventures and innovation in every other area of life, but we don’t have that in education because it’s a closed system, a closed industry, a closed market. It’s a monopoly, a dead end.
The Senate must confirm a president-elect’s choice for Cabinet positions, and before each hearing, nominees are given a questionnaire to fill out. Below is the complete questionnaire given to DeVos, with her answers. Asked to list her potential conflicts of interest, she essentially punts:
Politico reported that Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, wants the hearing postponed until DeVos fully answers financial and conflict of interest questions.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have told reporters that it is standard procedure for nominees to wait until after confirmation hearings — but before the actual committee vote — to complete financial disclosure forms. Not really. President Obama’s two education secretaries, Arne Duncan and John B. King Jr., both completed their paperwork before their confirmation hearings, though President George W. Bush’s education nominee waited until after the hearing, Politico reported.
My Washington Post colleague Emma Brown reported that DeVos and her family have donated to “the campaigns of many of the senators now tasked with voting on her nomination, including members of the committee overseeing her confirmation hearing.” A DeVos supporter said the donations were made because DeVos shares a governing philosophy with the members, not because she expected to be nominated as a Trump Cabinet member.
Here’s the questionnaire given to DeVos and her responses: