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Senate's HELP Committee Votes for Betsy DeVos to Face Full Senate 

Senate's HELP Committee Votes for Betsy DeVos to Face Full Senate 

The Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee vote on Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education started out with a strong endorsement of the billionaire nominee from committee leader Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee).

Alexander reiterated his belief that DeVos is the best candidate for the job, chiding his colleagues for being surprised "that a Republican President [nominated] an education secretary that supports school choice."

Addressing the concern of others over her wealth, he argued that she has "spent a lot of it helping low-income children have better choices of schools," and that she has no conflict of interest since she has agreed to divest from over 100 companies.

Other Republican senators expressed support for her desire to return power back to local communities from what Alexander refers to as "the National School Board."

"Why don't we try trusting the people who are elected locally?" Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) asked during his statement.

And then there were those who appeared to be on the fence, like Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). Though she said she would be continuing to evaluate DeVos due to her support of charter schools and vouchers as well as her misunderstanding of the federal IDEA law, she said she will be voting for DeVos to be considered by the full senate.

"I will continue to evaluate this nomination before it comes to the floor for a vote even as I vote today to advance it so that all of our colleagues have the opportunity" to do the same, Collins said.

Rather than pledging her full-blown support for DeVos, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) discussed instead the few times when she had actually opposed a nominee in a committee hearing, arguing that voting against a nominee during committee should only be reserved for the most serious cases.

Still, Murkowski said: "I have to acknowledge the thousands and thousands of Alaskans...who have shared their concerns." Murkowski also addressed her own concerns, and argued that DeVos must prove that "she will work to help the struggling public schools that strive to educate our children."

"She has not yet earned my full support...I would not advise that she count on my vote," she said.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) took a jab at what he calls "partisan squabbles" that happen while children and teachers suffer. "Teachers have a job that is harder than the job of anyone on this panel," Bennet said.

However, when it came time for staunch opposing senators to speak, they continued to discuss their concerns that DeVos is underqualified and underprepared for the position. Additionally, many discussed the thousands of constituents who called, emailed or sent them social media messages opposing her confirmation. According to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn), over 11,000 Connecticut residents called him to oppose DeVos. Barely any constituents, Murphy said, called in favor.

"I am extremely disappointed and frustrated that this has happened to this committee. We should not go into this vote unless senators have received appropriate responses for reasonable questions and we are not there yet," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) said.

After nearly two hours of statements, the Senate's HELP committee approved education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos to continue on to a full Senate vote 12-11.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

1/31/2017

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