Senate confirmation hearings for Trump’s cabinet picks have been underway since January 10th, and frankly do not seem to be going well, overall. Under normal circumstances, I would say that at least 75% of his selections will be unconfirmed, but as we are all aware, we are in the post-truth, topsy-turvy world of Trump, and nothing is normal. Trump was hoping all his nominations to be confirmed today, the day of his inauguration, but Republicans in Congress were more realistically hoping for seven confirmations today. I will be very surprised to see that happen.
Technically, his nominations cannot be put to a vote by the senate until after Trump takes the oath of office at noon. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has indicated that the only two that will be voted upon today are:
- Retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, Trump’s nominee for Defense secretary
- Retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security
Ethical questions about the others will likely keep their nominations from coming to a vote just yet, if ever. Tom Price, the nominee for Health and Human Services secretary has been questioned about his investments in health care stocks. Then there are Mick Mulvaney, the nominee for budget director who failed to pay required taxes for a babysitter; Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO and secretary of State nominee who has refused to recuse himself from future issues involving the company; and Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs partner and Trump’s nominee for treasury secretary, who failed to disclose $100 million in assets on forms he gave the Senate Finance Committee. As Senator Schumer remarked, “The president-elect is not draining the swamp … he’s filling it up.” I would agree … filling it with rich, white, greedy men and women. Republicans, who hold a 52-seat-majority in the Senate, need only 51 votes to confirm Trump’s nominees. However, Democrats have the power under Senate rules to drag out the process by insisting on days of debate before a vote.
Interestingly, nominees Mattis, Pompeo, Tillerson and Kelly all veered somewhat from Trump’s positions in their confirmation hearings last week on issues of trade, border security, foreign policy, Iran, and — perhaps most frequently — Russia. But that is a story for another day, as today I wish to use my time and words to address one nominee and her hearing, specifically Betsy DeVos. I recently wrote about DeVos and her high level of incompatibility and incompetence for the job of Secretary of Education. The woman has never been either a teacher or an administrator, never even attended public schools, has worked to take funding away from public schools for charter schools and private/religious school vouchers. Presumably Trump’s reason for nominating her was, a) the fact that she and her husband are billionaires many times over, and b) that she is the least qualified person he could find for the position. Both of those seem to be his leading criteria in most of his selections.
Ms. DeVos has taken a page from Trump’s playbook … the page that says “answer no question directly, but always circumvent.” Let us take a quick look at some of the answers she gave to questions during her three-and-a-half hour confirmation hearing:
Q: “Can you commit to us tonight that you will not work to privatize public schools or cut a single penny from public education?”
DeVos: “I’m hopeful that we can work together to find common ground and ways that we can solve those issues and empower parents to make choices on behalf of their children that are right for them.”
I told you … she took a page right out of Trump’s playbook! Never, ever, give a direct answer.
Q: “Do you think that guns have any place in or around schools?”
DeVos: “I think that’s best left to locales and states to decide. I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”
It happens that the Senator who asked this question was Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, where, in 2012, a gunman shot and killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Really smart answer, Betsy.
Q: “Do you think K-12 schools that receive federal funding should meet the same accountability standards, outcome standards?”
DeVos: “Yes. Although, you have different accountability standards between traditional public schools and charter schools.”
Q: “And, if confirmed, will you insist upon that equal accountability in any K-12 school or educational program that receives federal funding whether public, public charter or private?”
DeVos: “I support accountability.”
Q: “Equal accountability for all schools that receive federal funding.”
DeVos: “I support accountability.”
Q: “Okay, is that a yes or a no?”
DeVos: “That’s a, ‘I support accountability.’ “
Q: “Do you not want to answer my question?”
DeVos: “I support accountability.”
Can we say “I am a broken record, I am a broken record, I am a broken record …”? It is to be noted that DeVos fought against accountability and oversight for charter schools in the past.
Q: “Should all K-12 schools that receive taxpayer funding be required to meet the requirements of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act?”
DeVos: “I think that is a matter that’s best left to the states.”
Q: “So some states might be good to kids with disabilities, and other states might not be so good. And then, what?”
DeVos: “I think that’s an issue that’s best left to the states.”
Q: “What about the federal requirement? It’s a federal law — the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. Let’s limit it to federal funding. If schools receive federal funding should they be required to follow federal law — whether they’re public, public charter, or private?”
DeVos: “I think that is certainly worth discussion.”
Q: “So were you unaware, when I just asked you about the IDEA, that it was a federal law?”
DeVos: “I may have confused it.”
Filosofa has no comment on this because … she is still picking her jaw up from the floor.
Though full transcripts of the Q&A portion of the hearings are not available at this time, I suggest for more of DeVos’ questions and answers, you check out this article in NPR … it is the most comprehensive I was able to find.
Surely nobody, after hearing three-and-a-half hours of this gibberish, can believe that this woman is in the least bit qualified to make top-level decisions regarding our public school system! I was already convinced, based on my research into her background and policy stances, that she was unqualified, but if I had doubts, this hearing would have put them all to rest. This woman is among the most unqualified of Trump’s nominees to perform a job that is arguably one of the most important to the survival of our democracy. I hope that there are at least three Republican senators out of 52 who are willing to stand up for what is right, stand up for the future of this nation, follow their conscience and refuse to confirm Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.