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  SENATE REAIR Murkowski R-AK Says No to Betsy De Vos Nomination...  CSPAN  February 2, 2017 3:46am-4:02am EST

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disabilities act, known as idea, that guarantees a free and appropriation to children with special needs. the mission of the department of education is broad, but supporting public education is at its core. i'm concerned that mrs. devos' lack of experience with public schools will make it difficult for her to fully understand, identify and assist with those challenges, particularly for our rural schools in states like maine. in keeping with my past practice, i will vote today to proceed to debate on mrs. devos' nomination, but, madam president, i will not, i cannot vote to confirm her as
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our nation's next secretary of education. ms. murkowski: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i'd like to share my thoughts with colleagues today about the president's nominee to be secretary of education. i shared many of these thoughts yesterday with my colleagues on the senate help committee. like my colleague from maine, this nomination has been a very difficult one for me. it's been very personal. and as i mentioned in committee, i take very personally the education of the children of -- in my state. i take very personally the contributions that our educators, our administrators in our schools, all that they provide and the importance that we should all place, that we should all place on the
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education of america's children. i don't think it's an overstatement to say that i have struggled about how i will cast my vote on the nomination of mrs. devos. again, i take very personally the success of alaska's schools and the success of alaska's schoolchildren. we've got a lot of schools in asian as we all do -- we've got a lot of schools in alaska, as we all do around the nation. my schools, i would challenge, are a little bit more diverse than perhaps in other parts of america just because of our geography. we're isolated. 82% of the communities are not are attached by a road. the communities are small. the schools are smaller. in our urban centers, ironicically -- what some find unusual is we have more diverse any our populations than most
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people could understand or even imagine. one of the neighborhoods in my hometown of anchorage hosts the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the united states of america. so i have urban schools that have rich diversity and i have very rural, very remote, extremely remote schools that face challenges when it comes to how we deliver education. so knowing that we have a strong -- the strongest public school system is a priority. -- is a priority for me. i have spent considerable time one on one with mrs. devos before and after the committee hearing. i spent the entirety of the senate help committee listening carefully to the questions that colleagues put to her. afterwards reviewing not only her written responses to me but
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those that she had responded to other colleagues. i requested further that she provide certain commitments in writing. and after speaking with her at length and considering everything that i have learned, i have the following comments to share. first, i must state that i absolutely believe that betsy devos cares deeply for all children. i think that we all acknowledge that she could have spent her time, her energy, her considerable resources on almost anything else that she chose to do. and i admire her for choosing to help children to access a better education because she could have chosen to do many other things. but she chose to work for children, and i appreciate that. now, as senators we're in the position here to provide advice and consent on the president's nominee. my view has been and has been
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since i came to the united states senate that under almost all circumstances, a president has the right to have their nominees considered and to receive a full vote by the entire senate. so i have gone back and i have looked at how i, as a senator, have handled confirmations under presidents bush and president obama. and when cloture votes have been called on cabinet nominees, my practice has been to vote aye. i voted aye twice for secretary of defense hagel. i voted aye for secretary of labor perez, even though i voted against his confirmation in the final vote. so, mrs. devos -- she's answered thousands of questions that have been put to her. near the the office of government ethics, the senate help committee, nor i have found any substantive reason to question mrs. devos' name or
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reputation. but yet i have heard from thousands -- truly thousands -- of alaskans who shared their concerns about mrs. devos as secretary of education. they've contacted me by phone, by e-mail, in person, and their concerns center, as mine do, on mrs. devos' lack of experience with public education and the lack of knowledge that she portrayed in her confirmation hearing. alaskans are not satisfied that she would uphold federal civil rights laws in schools that receive federal funds. they question her commitment to students with disability rights under idea. they fear that the voucher programs that are intended to serve them may actually rob them of the opportunity to benefit from an education in an inclusive environment with their nondisabled peers. and after eight years of micromanagement that we've seen
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from this previous administration -- quite honestly, they're very concerned that mrs. devos will force vouchers on alaska. now, she has said that she has not. she's committed publicly and to me personally that she will not seek to impose vouchers on our states. she has committed to implementing federal education laws as they're written and intended, and this is a welcome departure from what we have seen with the two previous secretaries of education. she has committed that the focus she will give not only to alaska -- mr. president, if i may have a minute and a half. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. ms. murkowski: thank you, mr. president. she's committed that she will give not only to alaska but to all states, that she will not undermine, erode, or ignore public schools and that she will in fact support our public schools. and she's committed to me that she'll come to alaska in order to learn from alaska's educators, our parents, our school board members and our tribal representatives and see for herself the challenges that
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we face. but i still continue to have concerns. i think that mrs. devos has much to learn about our nation's public schools, how they work and the challenges they face. and i have serious concerns about a nominee to be secretary of education who has been so involved on one side of the equation, so immersed in the push for vouchers that she may be unaware of what actually is successful within the public schools and also what is broken and how to fix them. betsy devos must show us that she truly understands the children of alaska and across america, both urban and rural, who are not able to access an alternative choice to education, as in so many of my communities. she must show us that she will work to help the struggling public schools that strive to educate children whose parents are unable to drive them across town to get to a better school. that she will not ignore the homeless students whose main
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worry is finding somewhere safe to spleep and -- sleep and for whom their public school is treel truly a refuge -- is truly a refuge understand that she will fight for the parents that don't even know how to navigate these options. i believe that my colleagues here in the united states senate and the many, many that they represent have the right to debate these questions, to air their thoughts and concerns and perspectives about this nomination and, again, i believe that any president has the right to expect that we do so. but, mr. president, i conclude my remarks to make clear that my colleagues know firmly that i do not intend to vote on final passage to support mrs. devos to be secretary of education. so i thank the chairman of the committee for working with me
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and with my colleagues on this matter, but i cannot support this nominee. thank you, mr. president. mr. alexander: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: mr. president, i ask consent for five minutes. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. alexander: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i come to the floor to thank the senator from alaska and the senator from maine for this reason -- they are following a long and venerable tradition of the united states senate that too many senators do not follow. they are alarks despite their final view on the substance of an issue, the full senate to make a decision 0 on an important issue. it used to be that a motion to proceed to an issue was routine. it used to be that after a certain period of time we cut off the vote so that we could have an updarn vote -- up-or-down vote, 51, on an important issue. we've gotten away with that. but senator collins and senator
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murkowski have been the most consistent senators, absent circumstances, i am going to allow a vote to come to the floor so the full senate can make their decision. i thank them for that. as to ms. devos, i ask consent to put in the record following my remarks an article by -- why the senate should promptly confirm betsy devos as the united states education secretary, which i believe it will do soon. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. alexander: thank you, mr. president. ms. devos will be an excellent education secretary. she has a commitment to public education. she's said that. but there's no better example of that than her work on the most important reform of public schools in the last 30 years, which is charter schools. charter public schools are the fastest-growing reform of public education to give teachers more freedom and parents more choices, and she's been at the forefront of that public school activity. second, she's spent her time, true, helping to give low-income
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parents more choices and better schools for their chin. but is that a reason not to support her? i mean, i would be surprised if any president supported an education secretary who didn't support charter schools. i would be surprise fundamental a republican president didn't appoint an education -- or nominate an education secretary who didn't believe in school choice. and what i especially like about ms. devos is that she believes in the local school board instead of the national school board. she's made it clear that there will be no mandates from washington to adopt common core in arkansas or tennessee when she is the education secretary, and there will be no mandate in washington to evaluate teachers in washington state this way or that way, if she's the secretary; ans there will be no mandate -- and there will be no mandate from washington to have vouchers in maine or alaska if she is the secretary. she believes in the bill we passed in december of 2015 with 85 votes that restores to states and classroom teachers and local school boards the responsibility for making decisions about
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standards, about tests, about how to help improve schools, about how to evaluate teachers. that passed because people were so sick and tired of washington telling local schools so much about what to do. she will be that kind of education secretary. she'll be an excellent education secretary. and the two senators have followed a venerable and honorable tradition of the senate by saying they will vote to allow the full senate to consider her nomination, and when we do i'm confident that she will be confirmed. i thank the president. i thank the president.
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[inaudible conversations] >> the subcommittee will come to order the chair can authorize a recess said in a time ally will differ to the ranking member for an opening statement. >> federal employees below the low whistle on waste fraud and abuse on the frontlines on the effort to insure our government functions efficiently and effectively. there is a strong bipartisan report