Yesterday, Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary, showed the rest of Trump’s nominees exactly how a confirmation hearing should not go. DeVos apparently following Trump’s lead, decided to wing it at her hearing and failed to answer even basic questions about education policy. Sen. Franken (D-MN) asked DeVos whether standardized tests should measure a student’s growth or proficiency—a simple, but significant difference. She couldn’t answer it. And that wasn’t the only time DeVos showed an unsettling lack of knowledge about education policy. When Sen. Hassan (D-NH) asked DeVos about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)—the federal law guaranteeing education for students with disabilities—DeVos said she “may have confused” the fact that it is a federal law.
She also said it is “premature” to commit to following Title IX guidance on campus sexual assault. And when Sen. Murphy (D-CT) asked her whether guns should be allowed in schools DeVos avoided the question and then said guns may be needed to protect against grizzly bears… Other highlights from the blooper reel include DeVos dodging a question about privatization of education (which she has long supported) and not knowing how much money she and her family have given to conservative causes. Things got so bad even Republican operatives wanted to cover their eyes.
Better Believe It. The World Meteorological Organization announced that 2016 was officially planet’s hottest year on record—again. TBD if this will finally get the climate-denier caucus and Trump’s climate-denier cabinet on board with the reality of climate change, but we sure hope so.
Chelsea Manning. Yesterday, President Obama commuted the 35-year prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who was found guilty in 2010 of leaking sensitive military and diplomatic information that wound up in the hands of Wikileaks. The decision has been met with some controversy, but the Obama administration defended the move on the grounds that the Manning’s sentencing was extreme and that, as a transgender woman, she faced an uncertain and dangerous future behind bars in an all-male prison. The White House also made it clear that Edward Snowden, the founder of Wikileaks who disclosed far more serious and damaging classified information and then fled the U.S., will not be receiving the same act of clemency from the outgoing administration.
“Insurance for everybody.” That’s about the extent of Trump’s ACA replacement plan. He promises the plan is “going to be great for people,” but neglected to acknowledge the fact that repealing the law immediately (also a Trump promise) without a real replacement plan would cause 32 million people to lose their health care. Brande is one of the millions of people who depends on the ACA. See her story.
#PriceIsWrong. ICYMI: Trump’s HHS Secretary Tom Price’s hearing is happening right now. There are a lot of troubling facts about Price’s nomination: There’s the fact that he wants to repeal the ACA and strip health care from 32 million people; the fact that he doesn’t really believe in Medicare and would be tasked with overseeing it; the fact that he thinks “not one” woman struggled to afford birth control; the fact that he has a long anti-LGBT record and would be tasked with enforcing LGBT health protections; and the fact that he’s been accused of insider trading. And that’s not all. You can watch the rest of his hearing here and follow #PriceIsWrong on Twitter.
#PollutingPruitt. Today, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held the confirmation hearing for Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to lead the EPA. Pruitt is a climate denier who loves the oil and gas industry but has little regard for the EPA – in fact, he’s sued the EPA 14 times as AG of Oklahoma. If confirmed, we’ll be one step closer to seeing the EPA gone and the environment and our public health degraded. Like Trump’s other cabinet picks, there’s little doubt that Pruitt will put the interests of fossil fuel companies and big corporations over the health and safety of people and the environment. To resist Pruitt’s nomination, call, tweet, or write to members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to demand they reject #PollutingPruitt.
Wilbur Ross. The Commerce Secretary nominee is also having his hearing this morning but since Senate Republicans decided to hold three other hearings at the same time as Ross’s, he’s not getting a ton of attention. But his record of being the “king of bankruptcy,” while profiting off of slashing retiree benefits and laying American workers off to open factories in Mexico needs to be examined. Read more about Ross here.
UNDER THE RADAR
Woefully Unprepared. That could easily be used to describe the entirety of the Trump transition team, but it is especially true of its national security apparatus, which has many people wondering if Trump is prepared to manage a national security crisis when he takes office. Team Trump still hasn’t appointed many senior members of National Security Council. And there’s apparently also been little effort on the Trump end to engage with outgoing Obama administration officials in key national security posts—National Security Council, Department of State, and Department of Defense—to get up to speed on everything and get the necessary security credentials they’ll need before they take office.
Beyond the headline. A New York Times headline completely missed the mark this weekend by implying that people who use SNAP, otherwise known as food stamps, spend their money on “lots of soda.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, a recent study shows that people on food stamps don’t have different buying habits than those who are not. Read more on TalkPoverty.