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At Senate HELP Committee markup, Murray says President Trump’s education nominee is the “wrong choice to lead our nation’s Department of Education” 

Among many concerns, Murray cites DeVos’ long history fighting to privatize public schools, serious potential conflicts of interests, and alarming responses to questions on protections for students with disabilities, gun violence in schools, and enforcing federal law protecting women and girls from sexual violence 

Murray: “I have not been persuaded that Betsy DeVos will put students first if she were confirmed and I have not been persuaded that she has the experience, skills, understanding, or vision to lead this critical department at a time when it is more important than ever.” 

*Video HERE*

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Republicans on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee jammed through the nomination of Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education, even though she had not provided adequate paperwork and responses to questions from Senator Murray and Democrats about her financial disclosures and support for anti-public education policies.

Senator Murray and Democrats unanimously voted against advancing DeVos’ nomination to a full vote by the Senate.

Senator Murray and Democrats have been pushing for a second hearing and further vetting after they were limited to only one round of questions at the first hearing, where DeVos gave a widely panned testimony. At the hearing, DeVos raised serious concerns when she refused to rule out slashing investments in or privatizing public schools; when she was confused about the need for federal protections for students with disabilities; when she argued that guns needed to be allowed in schools across the country to “protect from grizzlies”; and when even though she was willing to say that President-elect’s behavior toward women should be considered sexual assault—she wouldn’t commit to actually enforcing federal law protecting women and girls in our schools.  

Key excerpts by Senator Murray on nomination of Betsy DeVos:

“Chairman Alexander—I have to say—I am extremely disappointed and frustrated that you are allowing this to happen to our Committee. This the first time I can remember that we will hold a vote on a nominee when the ranking member has made it clear that questions about missing information in the Committee paperwork have not been answered fully and to satisfaction.”

“I have been very clear—we should not go into this vote until Senators have received appropriate responses to reasonable questions—and we just aren’t there yet. So that is my first reason why I will be voting against this nomination today.”

“As we in this room know well, nominations for Secretary of Education have historically been moved through in a bipartisan way. With some exceptions, they have been people who were committed to students, had a long career dedicated to education, and were focused on keeping public education strong for all students and all communities. But this nominee is different. And there are very good reasons why she has become so controversial—why she has been panned across the country—why offices are being inundated with calls to oppose her—and why so many Democrats are standing up to say they think she is the wrong choice.”

“Ms. DeVos is a billionaire with extraordinarily complicated and opaque finances—both in her own holdings, as well as those of her immediate family. She has invested in education companies for decades. Her ethics paperwork raises a significant number of questions about the companies she plans to remain invested in, as well as significant numbers of assets that we simply don’t know enough about. And she has refused to answer basic questions about her finances that would allow us to make sure that she won’t continue to have serious conflicts of interest were she to be confirmed.”

“From the decades she spent using her inherited fortune to influence Republican candidates and push her extreme anti-student ideology; to the failed education policies she fought for that siphoned money away from strengthening public schools for all students and toward taxpayer funded private school vouchers, with little accountability, for just a few. To the work she did to reduce accountability for charter schools—including for-profit charters; and to the devastating impact her advocacy has had on students in Michigan and across the country—stealing their opportunities to learn, pushing them into failed schools without true accountability, demonizing teachers, and weakening public education in their communities.”

“Betsy DeVos’ record is robust—deeply problematic—and I hope members of this Committee have examined it closely. But we don’t even need to do that. We can simply look at the one hearing we have been allowed to have with Ms. DeVos in front of this Committee. This is a hearing that people across the country heard about—and for good reason. From local newspapers, to local news, to the Daily Show, the View, and posts that went viral on social media—a whole lot of people heard Betsy DeVos for the first time. They watched as Democrats get blocked from asking questions in an unprecedented and disappointing attempt to protect this nominee. And then—on the questions we were allowed to ask—they saw a nominee who was widely seen as ill-informed, and confused—and who gave a number of very concerning responses to serious and reasonable questions.”

“From everything we heard, everything we know, and all of the questions that still remain—it is clear to me that Betsy DeVos is the wrong choice to lead our nation’s Department of Education. And that is not just my view. Over the past few weeks, Senate offices have been inundated with calls, letters, petitions, and social media. I know all of you here have heard about it. And the vast majority of them have come with a very clear message: Say yes to strong public education for all students. And say no to Betsy DeVos. So I stand with parents across the country. I stand with students. And I urge my colleagues to vote against Betsy DeVos today.” 

Full remarks by Senator Murray on nomination of Betsy DeVos, as prepared for delivery:

Chairman Alexander—as I mentioned before, I am extremely disappointed that you are moving ahead with this vote despite my reasonable request for a delay.

Democrats have a number of concerns with this nomination—and for all I know, Republicans may have concerns too. But we have not been given an appropriate opportunity to get the answers to our questions—and to do our jobs here in the Senate to do due diligence on nominees and make sure they are truly ready to get to work for the people we represent.

As we in this room know well, nominations for Secretary of Education have historically been moved through in a bipartisan way. With some exceptions, they have been people who were committed to students, had a long career dedicated to education, and were focused on keeping public education strong for all students and all communities.

But this nominee is different. And there are very good reasons why she has become so controversial—why she has been panned across the country—why offices are being inundated with calls to oppose her—and why so many Democrats are standing up to say they think she is the wrong choice.

So I will be voting against Betsy DeVos today. And for the students and parents I represent—I will be encouraging my colleagues to do the same. I have two major problems with this nomination—and I want to run through each briefly.

First, Chairman Alexander, I have said to you privately already—we have simply not been given all of the information we need to make a decision as Senators charged with robustly scrutinizing the President’s nominees. 

Ms. DeVos is a billionaire with extraordinarily complicated and opaque finances—both in her own holdings, as well as those of her immediate family. She has invested in education companies for decades. Her ethics paperwork raises a significant number of questions about the companies she plans to remain invested in, as well as significant numbers of assets that we simply don’t know enough about. And she has refused to answer basic questions about her finances.

In fact—upon initial review of her responses to our question that she just sent to us yesterday, there are significant gaps and incomplete answers in my questions about missing information in her Committee financial disclosure. Ms. DeVos continues to simply refuse to answer questions in our Committee questionnaire, and is simply referring me back to her ethics paperwork—which is completely at odds with past practice and sets a new and dangerous precedent that dramatically limits our ability to get a full picture of nominees’ finances and potential conflicts of interest.

So Chairman Alexander—I have to say—I am extremely disappointed and frustrated that you are allowing this to happen to our Committee. This the first time I can remember that we will hold a vote on a nominee when the ranking member has made it clear that questions about missing information in the Committee paperwork have not been answered fully and to satisfaction.

We have been able to work together well for the past two years—and it’s because we have worked in good faith and across party lines to make sure we had what we needed to proceed. You are justifiably proud of your record of accomplishments on this Committee over the years. But by moving forward today, I consider this to be a massive break with that strong bipartisan record, and it will dramatically impact our ability to work together in good faith going forward.

Because the usual practices are being ignored here. The right thing to do is being ignored here. This nominee is being jammed through with corners being cut and with the minority being brushed aside—and I think it is absolutely wrong.

Additionally, we just received responses to hundreds of written questions yesterday—less than 24 hours before a scheduled vote—and with no time for full review and to ask any follow-up questions. Though, I will say—upon initial review, many of the responses look copied and pasted from previous statements, or are simple reiterations of the law and not true responses at all.

So Chairman Alexander—I have been very clear—we should not go into this vote until Senators have received appropriate responses to reasonable questions—and we just aren’t there yet. So that is my first reason why I will be voting against this nomination today. But there is another reason.

And that is that I have not been persuaded that Betsy DeVos will put students first if she were confirmed and I have not been persuaded that she has the experience, skills, understanding, or vision to lead this critical department at a time when it is more important than ever. There is so much about Betsy DeVos’ record over the years that we can look to when we make this decision.

From the decades she spent using her inherited fortune to influence Republican candidates and push her extreme anti-student ideology; to the failed education policies she fought for that siphoned money away from strengthening public schools for all students and toward taxpayer funded private school vouchers, with little accountability, for just a few.

To the work she did to reduce accountability for charter schools—including for-profit charters; and to the devastating impact her advocacy has had on students in Michigan and across the country—stealing their opportunities to learn, pushing them into failed schools without true accountability, demonizing teachers, and weakening public education in their communities.

Betsy DeVos’ record is robust—deeply problematic—and I hope members of this Committee have examined it closely. But we don’t even need to do that. We can simply look at the one hearing we have been allowed to have with Ms. DeVos in front of this Committee.

This is a hearing that people across the country heard about—and for good reason. From local newspapers, to local news, to the Daily Show, the View, and posts that went viral on social media—a whole lot of people heard Betsy DeVos for the first time. They watched as Democrats get blocked from asking questions in an unprecedented and disappointing attempt to protect this nominee.

And then—on the questions we were allowed to ask—they saw a nominee who was widely seen as ill-informed, and confused—and who gave a number of very concerning responses to serious and reasonable questions. 

Let’s go through what Betsy DeVos said to us. She refused to rule out slashing investments in, or privatizing, public schools. And, in fact, in her written responses to me she would not commit to protecting Title 1 funding as it is written in the Every Student Succeeds Act. She was confused that federal law provides protections for students with disabilities. She argued that guns needed to be allowed in schools across the country to “protect from grizzlies.”

And even though she was willing to say that President Trump’s behavior toward women should be considered sexual assault—she wouldn’t commit to actually enforcing federal law protecting women and girls in our schools.

From everything we heard, everything we know, and all of the questions that still remain—it is clear to me that Betsy DeVos is the wrong choice to lead our nation’s Department of Education.

And that is not just my view. Over the past few weeks, Senate offices have been inundated with calls, letters, petitions, and social media. I know all of you here have heard about it.

And the vast majority of them have come with a very clear message: Say yes to strong public education for all students. And say no to Betsy DeVos. So I stand with parents across the country. I stand with students. And I urge my colleagues to vote against Betsy DeVos today.

Thank you.

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