Citing time needed to review an ethics report, a Senate committee postponed its vote on Donald Trump’s choice for education secretary, billionaire Amway heiress Betsy DeVos.
The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee chairman, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced the delay after committee members received the Office of Government Ethics report. The vote will now take place on Jan. 31, he said in a statement.
Democratic senators complained that the chairman had rushed the hearing without allowing time for proper vetting of the nominee. DeVos, and her husband Dick, have a web of financial investments rife with potential conflicts of interest. For example, they hold investments through their private foundations in a debt-collection company that lost out on a contract with the education department and is now protesting that decision; another holding is with a company that runs a network of for-profit colleges. One of the responsibilities of the education department is to regulate for-profit colleges, notorious for their predatory student loan practices that saddle students with thousands of dollars of debt without any meaningful degree to show for it.
Ethics Director Walter Shaub Jr. had warned that it could take weeks or maybe months to perform due diligence on the financial interests and possible ethics conflicts of billionaires and multi-millionaires. Trump’s picks add up to be the wealthiest Cabinet in American history. Seven of them, including DeVos, are worth a total of $11 billion, according to CBS News.
Despite DeVos’ pledge to “not be conflicted,” Democrats said they need answers to their questions and concerns. Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the committee, said, “Ms. DeVos and her family have incredibly complicated and opaque financial entanglements, and staff is now reviewing all of her and her family’s holdings that have conflicts with her role as secretary of education.”
The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are urging their members and the wider community of parents, students and education advocates to contact their senators and tell them to say “no” to DeVos.