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Senate Education Committee Delays Vote on Betsy DeVos’ Nomination

By Andrew Ujifusa — January 20, 2017 2 min read
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A vote in the Senate education committee on Betsy DeVos’ nomination for education secretary tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday has been delayed by one week. On Friday, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the committee chairman, announced that the vote will now take place on Jan. 31 at 10 a.m.

DeVos’ confirmation hearing, held on Tuesday, got rocky at several points. She appeared confused that there was a federal law covering students with disabilities, and baffled Democratic senators—and many teachers on social media—when she said that a remote rural school might need guns to keep out grizzly bears.

The vote’s delay comes one day after DeVos completed and filed a lengthy financial disclosure of her assets with the Office of Government Ethics. DeVos also sent a letter to a designated ethics official at the U.S. Department of Education outlining how she will move to avoid any actual or potential conflicts of interest due to her investments. Democrats on the committee have kept up a steady drumbeat of concerns about DeVos’ potential conflicts because of her and he families various holdings.

“The committee has received Betsy DeVos’s paperwork from the Office of Government Ethics. She has completed the committee’s paperwork, answered questions for 3.5 hours at her confirmation hearing, met privately with the members of the committee, and she will now spend the coming days answering senators’ written questions for the record,” said a spokesperson for Alexander.

An Alexander spokesperson said the delay was made “In order to give each Senator time to review the agreement letter” from DeVos regarding her conflicts of interest.

Alexander had previously said that the committee vote on DeVos to send her nomination to the full Senate would take place Jan. 24, assuming her ethics paperwork cleared by Friday.

Before news of the delayed vote, Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the committee’s top Democrat, said the nominee’s Jan. 19 ethics letter and disclosure weren’t enough to fully clear the air around DeVos.

“Senator Murray has also not yet received answers to her questions about missing information in Ms. DeVos’ Committee financial disclosure. And Committee Democrats have sent Ms. DeVos a number of reasonable questions for the record that she committed to answer and that they expect clear and complete responses to,” Zupnick said in a statement.

So is the DeVos nomination in trouble? No, a GOP aide said. “This is all theater for the Dems to prove they are mad,” the aide said. “They can beat their chests and gnash their teeth but Betsy DeVos will easily get confirmed before Valentine’s Day.”

DeVos only needs a simple majority of senators to support her, so if all 52 Republicans vote for her, she will be confirmed.

On Friday, after being inaugurated, President Donald Trump seemed uncertain of which cabinet position he appointed “Betsy” to—you can see a short video clip of this below (hat-tip Lauren Camera of U.S. News and World Report, our former Education Week colleague.)

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