Bernie Sanders asks Donald Trump’s Education Secretary pick Betsy DeVos if her billionaire family helped her get the job

Family of President's schools chief donated $200m to Republican party, according to the senator 

Chloe Farand
Friday 03 February 2017 17:48
The Best of Bernie Sanders' grilling of Betsy DeVos in her Senate nomination hearing for Education Secretary

US Senator Bernie Sanders has asked Donald Trump’s billionaire education secretary whether she would have got the job if her family had not donated $200m to the Republican party.

Mr Sanders put a series of tough questions to Betsy DeVos during her confirmation hearing as a new member of the new President’s administration.

He grilled Ms DeVos about the amount of money her family donated to the Republican party over the years, a figure that stands at around $200m according to Mr Sanders and is "possible" according to Ms DeVos.

In footage of the exchange, Mr Sanders asks the new education secretary: “My question is, and I don’t want to be rude, but do you think if you were not a multi-billionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican party that you would be sitting here today?”

She responds: "Senator, as a matter of fact, I do think there would be that possibility. I've worked very hard on behalf of parents and children for the last almost 30 years."

Mr Sanders then asked Ms DeVos whether she would "work with him to make colleges and universities tuition free".

She replies: "Senator I think that's a very interesting idea and it's really great thinking about, but I think we also have to consider the fact that there is nothing in life that is truly free, somebody is going to pay for it."

But Mr Sanders said the Senate had been presented with a law to “substantially” lower tax breaks for millionaires while "low income young people could not afford to go to college".

“Do you think that makes sense?,” he asked her.

Ms DeVos replies:"Senator I think if your question is really around how can we help college and high education be more affordable for young people...."

But Ms Sanders interrupts, to say: "That was not my question. My question is should we make make public colleges and universities tuition free for every family in America, regardless of their income, to be able to give their children higher education."

She replies: "Senator, I think we can work together and we can work hard in making sure that college and high education in some form is affordable for all young people who would like to pursue it."

A billionaire philanthropist and businesswoman, Ms DeVos is a former Michigan Republican party chairwoman. Her husband, Dick, was the Republican’s nominee to be Governor of Michigan in 2006.

Ms DeVos has strong ties to the Christian Reformed community in Michigan and is known for her controversial push for private school voucher programmes.

She is the daughter of Edgar Prince, a billionaire industrialist and founder of the automobile parts supplier Prince Corp.

The DeVos family is one of the wealthiest in Michigan and heirs to the health and beauty company Amway Copr. They are major donors to the Republican party.

In the hearing, Mr Sanders continued to grill Ms DeVos by asking her: "What are your proposals in making child care universal for working families. Do you agree with that?"

"How do we help somebody who is making eight or nine bucks an hour when we can't raise the minimum wage here because of Republican opposition. How do we make sure those mums can get quality child care that they can afford?"

Ms DeVos replied: "Well I'll be looking forward to helping that mum getting quality education for that child or her children so they can look forward to a bright and colourful future."

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