Federal Update: New Congress kicks off, preps for DeVos confirmation hearing


UPDATE: After this story was published, the leaders of the Senate HELP committee announced that the DeVos confirmation hearing had been postponed to Jan. 17 at 4:00 PM CST. Chair Alexander and Ranking Member Murray stated that the change was made “at the request of the Senate leadership to accommodate the Senate schedule.”


Congress kicked off a new session last week with two new members from Texas and new members in top ranking positions on committees important to education and educators. This week, Congress is set to proceed with the Senate confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos to become the new U.S. Secretary of Education.

The first education-related item up on the new Congress’s agenda is the confirmation hearing for President-Elect Donald Trump’s education secretary pick, Betsy DeVos. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will meet Wednesday at 9:00 AM CST to begin the billionaire voucher-advocate’s confirmation process. DeVos remains a provocative pick for public education supporters as she has fought for decades on behalf of voucher proposals in several states, led advocacy organizations that pushed alt-school-choice options, and has no meaningful experience in the classroom or our public schools. Still, most Senate Republicans have praised her nomination and only Democrats are expected to show any opposition on Wednesday.


The Senate HELP committee will have the choice to vote to move the nomination to the full Senate or take no action. Since DeVos’s nomination is expected to make it out of committee, the committee will likely report her nomination to the full Senate where she will need a simple majority vote for final confirmation. Watch DeVos’s confirmation hearing live or archived here.

While Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) remain the leaders of the Senate HELP committee in the new Congress, education committees in the U.S. House are experiencing changes in leadership. The U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce will now be led by Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC), replacing the previous chair, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), who retired at the end of the year. The committee’s Democratic leader remains Ranking Member Bobby Scott of Virginia.

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, which in previous sessions has seen bills to repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO), will also have new leadership, but, in this case, only on the Democratic side of the aisle with new Ranking Member Richard Neal of Massachusetts. The House Ways and Means committee continues to be led by Chair Kevin Brady (R-TX), who has worked for years with ATPE and other groups to pass legislation that more fairly distributes Social Security benefits to teachers and other affected employees. ATPE is optimistic that the new ranking member, who co-authored Brady’s Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (ETPSA) will fight alongside Chair Brady as they work towards repeal of the WEP this year.

Two new members of Congress from Texas also began work after being sworn in last week. Republican Representative Jodey Arrington of Lubbock and Democrat Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen both replace retiring members Randy Neugebauer and Ruben Hinojosa, respectively. ATPE sent letters welcoming Reps. Arrington and Gonzalez to Congress and welcomes all of the new members and leaders to their new roles. Stay tuned for updates from Washington as the new administration and Congress get underway.

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One thought on “Federal Update: New Congress kicks off, preps for DeVos confirmation hearing

  1. Dabney Johnson

    It is time for all public teachers and retired public teachers to become very vocal and use all our influence to inform the general public of the attacks being fired towards our present public teachers and our public schools. I am a product of both public education and private school education. I have always voiced my concerns to protect our rights to a quality public school education. I would be very concerned for our children in our public schools if a narrow minded elite few gut public education of much needed funds. Quality private schools do not want federal money due to the strings attached, nor do they financially need tax payer funds. Public schools education all that show up at the schools door steps where private schools can pre-test to allow admission of all that attend. I know Money is tight and thought has to be applied for funding. All parents want the best for their child concerning education. They expect our elected members to do what is best for public education. I have never met a public school teacher who does not love the field of education and want what is best for their students. Some kids need time and understanding to meet what is expected of them. Teachers need our support and not be given a timeline or find funds taken from their pockets. You can not run a child like you would a car. Do you sell your car when a recall is sent to fix a key part. No, you repair it and keep driving. I believe in ATPE and in our Texas public schools. So please take notice and heed their advice. GET ACTIVE before it is too late.


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