The Senate has voted 55 to 43 to confirm Carlos Muñiz as the U.S. Department of Education’s lead attorney.
Muñiz was nominated by President Donald Trump last year to be the department’s general counsel. He was previously deputy state attorney general and chief of staff for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and deputy general counsel under former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He’s also been an attorney in private practice. The Senate confirmed Muñiz on Wednesday.
During floor debate, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., lamented that Muñiz’s nomination had languished. He noted that Muñiz was nominated last June, and confirmed by the Senate education committee in October.
“He’s been waiting six months following his approval by the relevant committee for the Senate to consider his nomination. So it’s time to confirm him. It’s time to give Secretary DeVos an attorney and a general counsel,” Alexander said.
But Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., expressed big concerns about whether Muñiz can be a independent counselor to DeVos. Murray said DeVos has watered down protections for vulnerable students and approved state plans that flout the Every Student Succeeds Act.
“It’s clear Secretary DeVos needs an independent General Counsel who will stand up to her when laws are being bent or broken. But I am afraid Mr. Muñiz has failed to convince me that is the kind of General Counsel he would be,” Murray said.
During his confirmation hearing before the Senate education committee last September, Muñiz said he would be “scrupulous” in telling Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and others to abide by ESSA: “My advice to states would be to follow the law. ... My job would be to advise her as to what the law requires, advise her as to what her discretion might be.”
After the vote, DeVos issued a statement saying she’s glad to have Muñiz aboard.
“We are pleased to finally have Carlos on the team,” said Secretary DeVos. “After a protracted confirmation process, Carlos can at last get to work on behalf of our nation’s students. He has dedicated his career to upholding the law, and his insight and expertise will be invaluable as we work to advance educational opportunities for all students.”
Muñiz is the fifth Trump political nominee to the Education Department to be approved by the Senate. The other four are:
- Johnny Collett, assistant secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services;
- Peter Oppenheim, assistant secretary for legislation and congressional affairs;
- Mark Schneider, director of the Institute of Education Sciences;
- Doug Webster, chief financial officer.
However, there are still several nominees awaiting confirmation by the full Senate, including Jim Blew for assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy analysis; Kenneth L. Marcus for assistant secretary for civil rights; and Mick Zais for deputy secretary.
DeVos has previously complained that the Senate has not been fast enough in approving nominees for her department. Last fall, we determined that for several positions, the Trump team was months behind the Obama administration in nominating people for them.
Can’t get enough of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos? Check out some of our best coverage:
- Here’s Our Q&A with Secretary DeVos
- Read an Education Week Commentary by DeVos on Special Education Students
- Betsy DeVos’ Use of the Bully Pulpit Brings Opportunities, and Challenges
- Among Educators, Donald Trump Is More Popular Than Betsy DeVos
Image: Screen capture of Muniz from his September 2017 confirmation hearing before the Senate education committee