Published On: Mon, Jan 23rd, 2017

Lamar Alexander denies Democrats’ request for second hearing on Betsy DeVos

The Senate committee chairman, Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, on Monday rejected a formal request from Democrats for a second hearing to question west Michigan businesswoman and education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. The vote will move ahead on January 31.

The request from committee Democrats came after DeVos finalized her financial disclosures and signed an agreement with the Office of Government Ethics late last week explaining her intention to divest within 90 days from 102 companies and holdings that pose potential conflicts of interest.

Washington State Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, said Democrats particularly wanted to ask about companies DeVos would continue to own that are “directly impacted” by the U.S. Department of Education and the Trump administration’s education agenda.

“We would like to ask Ms. DeVos additional questions we were prevented from asking this week, given we did not know all of the financial and ethical information that has now been shared with us, as well as address additional questions that have arisen from the OGE paperwork,” Murray and other Democrats wrote in a letter Monday to Alexander.

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“We believe the opportunity to ask such questions is consistent with the responsibilities and practices of this committee.”

“Education is too important an issue, and the Secretary of Education is too important a position for the country and for this Committee, to jam a nominee through without sufficient questioning and scrutiny,” they wrote. “This is not about politics, it should not be about partisanship — it should be about doing the work we were elected by our states to do to ask questions of nominees on behalf of the people we represent.”

Alexander will not hold a second hearing on DeVos’ nomination, a committee aide said Monday in response to the Democrats’ letter.

The chairman has said it’s “absolute nonsense” to say there wasn’t enough time to ask questions, citing the access that senators have had to DeVos, including private meetings with each committee member.

DeVos’ 31/2-hour hearing went 11/2 hours longer than the hearings for either education secretary nominated by former President Barack Obama.

DeVos is also answering 837 written questions submitted by committee Democrats, compared with 81 questions combined that Republicans submitted in writing to Obama’s two secretaries of education.

Murray has accused Alexander of trying to “protect” DeVos from scrutiny by ending Tuesday’s hearing after a single round of questioning by most senators.

DeVos, 59, is the school choice advocate and GOP donor who twice chaired the Michigan Republican Party.

Democrats and labor unions have objected to her nomination, arguing she would undermine the public school system to promote charter, private and other education options.

DeVos has responded that she supports all forms of public education and wants to give families more options for choosing their education. The Democrats have been so divisive that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren refused to shake her hand.


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- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at theglobaldispatch@gmail ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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