Senate Democrats are asking for another chance to question Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, although a Republican Senate aide said that’s not going to happen.
DeVos appeared before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to answer questions last Tuesday evening. But the Office of Government Ethics’ report on her was only released this past Friday. Now Democrats say they need more time to question the billionaire activist on her extensive financial interests.
On Friday, Republicans did agree to delay the vote on DeVos’ nomination until Jan. 31.
But an aide to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chairs the HELP committee, said Monday that DeVos would not be brought back before the panel.
“The committee will not be holding a second hearing on the Education Secretary nominee,” said the aide in a statement. “Betsy DeVos has already met with each committee member in their offices, spent nearly an hour and a half longer in her Senate hearing than either of President Obama’s education secretaries, and is now answering 837 written questions ― 1,397 including all the questions within a question ― that Democrats have submitted for her to answer.”
DeVos, a member of a wealthy Michigan family, has said that she will divest from 102 companies and investment funds. But according to The New York Times, this list does not include all the companies in which she has a stake, including one involved in education-related matters.
Democrats on the HELP committee wrote to Alexander on Monday asking for more time to speak with DeVos.
“Now that we have received all of the paperwork from the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), we request Ms. DeVos appear for a second day of hearings before the HELP Committee prior to the Committee scheduling a mark-up on Ms. DeVos’ nomination,” the letter says. “We would like to ask Ms. DeVos additional questions we were prevented from asking this [sic] 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.”
The Democrats wrote that they would like to “ask her questions around companies she will continue to own that are directly impacted by the Department of Education and this administration’s education agenda.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined with all the Democrats on the committee, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), in signing the letter.
At DeVos’ confirmation hearing last week, Democrats expressed dismay that committee members were each limited to five minutes of questioning. DeVos ― who is an advocate for charter schools and other education issues, but has never worked in a public school ― received mixed reviews for her performance. She appeared to be confused by a query about a major federal law relating to students with disabilities and suggested that schools might need guns to fend off grizzly bears.
However, Alexander has remained her staunch supporter.
“We know that Betsy DeVos is a passionate defender of improving opportunities for low-income children who has committed to implement the law fixing No Child Left Behind as Congress wrote it, support public schools, and work to protect all children and students from discrimination and ensure they are educated in a safe environment,” an Alexander spokesperson previously said, according to MLive.