WASHINGTON — Michigan billionaire and GOP powerhouse Betsy DeVos testified yesterday at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, chaired by Tennessee’s senior senator, Lamar Alexander.
As Politico’s Kimberly Hefling, Caitlin Emma and Benjamin Wermund reported yesterday, the strident advocate of school vouchers and charter schools, to the detriment of publicly funded schools, became a social media sensation at her bumpy hearing.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) asked the nominee to head the Department of Education about her views about gun control in schools. She responded by saying that decisions on gun access should be made by local and state governments. She then referred to a small rural school in Wapiti, Wyoming, where, earlier in the hearing, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) had said the school there had to ward off grizzly bears. “I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the Wapiti schools to protect from potential grizzlies,” DeVos said.
As chronicled by associate solitary reporter Allegra Harvard, DeVos, determined to show how devoted she is to gun rights, quickly reached into her duffel bag, pulled out her Winchester 94 hunting rifle, and told Alexander to call the National Zoo’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Donald Neiffer, with instructions to bring the youngest grizzly in the zoo’s collection to the hearing room. Surprised, Alexander and Neiffer complied, and as Gus the Grizzly ran into th the hearing room, DeVos took aim, plugged Gus, took off her glasses, and smiled.
“Bravo!” said Alexander, as did his Republican colleagues on the committee, Senators Rand Paul (TP-Kentucky), Johnny Isaakson (Georgia), and Enzi.
One stalwart Democrat, Montana’s Jon Tester, said after the hearing, “It is becoming clear that Mrs. DeVos doesn’t believe we should ensure that students with special needs have the same access to a quality education as every other student. I have little confidence that she will fight for more special education resources for public schools and give every student a fair shot at success.” This, after DeVos said that all issues involving schools should be decided the state and local level.