It looked like a slam dunk for Senate Democrats. President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, was his most unqualified pick and had a “study-for-the-final-the-night-before” type performance at her confirmation hearing.
- Dancing around the assertion that guns do not belong on school campuses because of possible grizzly bear attacks in Wyoming.
- Not knowing that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was a federal civil rights law and isn’t to be left to each state to determine enforcement.
- Being unwilling to say that all schools receiving federal funds through vouchers should be held to the equal standards.
- Being unfamiliar of with a fairly well known subject of debate in the world of education on whether to measure students on proficiency or growth.
Now a couple of those seem like they could be considered “gotcha” questions on specific policies and laws and who in the world is supposed to be able to ramble on about education debate, theory, and practices? THE GOD DAMN SECRETARY OF EDUCATION THAT’S WHO.
Betsy DeVos is a billionaire donor whose money was spread far and wide across Republican campaigns this election cycle. She also wrote an op-ed in 1997 for a Washington newspaper Roll Call saying that she stopped “taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence…I simply concede the point.” SHE WROTE THAT AND STILL WAS NOMINATED TO A CABINET POSITION.
I read a counterargument about DeVos from the National Review which points out supposed hypocrisy:
What is sadly and maddeningly predictable is the stench-inducing hypocrisy of Democrats who attack DeVos as a creature of private school—even as they and their children have attended and otherwise benefited from private education.
That doesn’t hold much water because while those Senators may send their own children to private school…they aren’t trying to be the Secretary of Education. The job of the Senate is to make sure each cabinet appointment represent the department they are nominated to lead.
Democratic Senators have to bear a large part of responsibility though because in 2013 the then-Democratic controlled Senate changed a procedural confirmation rule in an attempt to thwart seemingly endless and blind Republican opposition. On any nomination that requires Senate approval, except for the Supreme Court, only a simple majority is needed to end a filibuster (which means stalling by talking a lot in real people terms) rather than the traditional 3/5s. Clearly it was not a decision made with much thought on the implications long-term but at the time it was necessary to curb Republican road-blocking of all Obama judicial nominees.
What happened then? It’s pretty simple: Democrats didn’t have enough votes to get a simple majority of the Senate to block her nomination. Two Republican Senators, Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), even publicly declared they would not be able to support DeVos. So all they needed was one more vote. But alas, Republican Senators circled the wagons and refused to budge. It should be noted though that Cabinet nominees almost never get blocked. The last one was a Bush 41 nomination in 1989. A Vice President has never had to break a tie for a cabinet nomination until VP Pence did on Tuesday.
It was an uphill battle from the beginning but a groundswell of activity led a lot of democrats to believe the block was possible. It could be viewed as a big blow to democratic activism because even with all the calling and letter-writing and marching, they couldn’t get one more dang vote. But the reality is that these next couple years are going to be filled with mountains of disappointment with victories few and far between. That shouldn’t deter activism though. It also shouldn’t force democrats to stoop to blanket opposition of any and every piece of Trump Administration legislation. That is not how this country is supposed to work and the previous eight years of Republican obstructionism must be viewed as a stain in our history rather than a new path towards more gridlock.
Keep going because eventually it’ll work.