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Miguel Cardona Takes Key Step Forward in Drama-Free Senate Committee Vote

By Andrew Ujifusa — February 11, 2021 1 min read
Education secretary nominee Miguel Cardona speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the nomination on Feb. 3, 2021, in Washington.

Miguel Cardona took a key step towards becoming U.S. secretary of education Thursday when the Senate education committee reported his nomination favorably to the full Senate.

The Senate voted 17-5 in Cardona’s favor. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the committee chairwoman, voted for Cardona and cited his “clear qualifications.” And Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the committee’s ranking Republican, also voted for Cardona, citing his experience and priorities.

“He’s stressed the need for students to be back in school, and that’s now, finally, a bipartisan mission,” Burr said of Cardona.

Next up for Cardona is a final Senate confirmation vote.

Cardona’s confirmation hearing before the committee took place on Feb. 3. At that hearing, Republican senators pressed him on several issues, perhaps most notably the rights of transgender students to participate in athletic events that match their gender identity. But his exchanges with lawmakers generated few surprises, especially when compared with the hearing for former education secretary Betsy DeVos four years ago (although the education committee also reported her nomination favorably to the full Senate).

As the Feb. 3 hearing drew to a close, Burr called Cardona, who is Connecticut’s education commissioner and was unveiled by Biden as his nominee in December, “eminently qualified” for the job.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Cardona will be faced with numerous challenges at the Education Department. Chief among them will be how best to help schools reopen their doors for in-person learning—an issue where the White House has caused controversy recently—and what to do about standardized testing and federal accountability.

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