12.05.17

At Hearing, Murray Demands Education and Labor Nominees Protect Civil Rights and Safety of Students and Workers, Reverse the Damage Done by Trump Administration

Senate HELP Committee holds hearing on Education and Labor nominations 

 

Highlighting President Trump’s harmful decisions on civil rights and worker health and safety, Senator Murray pressed nominees on their commitment to uphold mission of their Departments and protect students and workers

 

Murray: “Students, workers, and families are counting on all four of you to stand up to President Trump and his harmful policies.”

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on the nominations of Kenneth Marcus to lead the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Johnny Collett to be the Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Scott Mugno to head OSHA at the Department of Labor, and William Beach for Commissioner of Labor Statistics at Department of Labor.

 

In her opening statement, Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) called out the Trump Administration for actively working to undermine the middle class’ access to opportunities and their financial security, and to roll back civil rights protections for women, people of color, people with disabilities, and more. Senator Murray then addressed each nominee individually and encouraged them to stand up to President Trump and fight for students and workers.

 

While addressing President Trump’s nominee for the Office for Civil Rights, Kenneth Marcus, she emphasized the need for him to stand up to both President Trump and Secretary DeVos to protect students’ rights. Marcus would replace acting head Candice Jackson, whom Senator Murray has publicly called upon to be removed due to her inappropriate comments on sexual assault on college campuses—as well as her disregard for the mission of the Office for Civil Rights.

 

 

Key excerpts of Ranking Member Murray’s opening statement:

 

“One of the most appalling ways that President Trump has damaged our country is when it comes to civil rights—and undermining the rights and safety of women, people of color, and people with disabilities. First of all—this shouldn’t be a surprise. There are some areas where President Trump has broken his promises—I will talk about some of those in a bit—but this is one where he has kept them. This is a President who kicked off his campaign by calling Mexicans criminals. Who called for a ban on all Muslims coming to America, who openly ridiculed a journalist with a disability, who has openly demeaned women, who defended white supremacists rallying in Charlottesville by saying there were “many fine people” among them, and sadly—I can go on and on. And this is an Administration that has worked every day to implement the vision of their leader—especially in education. Rolling back protections for transgender students, revoking Title IX guidance that protects women and helps bring perpetrators of sexual assault to justice, halting investigations into systemic discrimination, and once again, the list goes on. Two of the nominees here today—to lead the Office for Civil Rights and the Special Education and Rehabilitative Services—will be in a position to continue these appalling policies, make them worse, or work with us to begin to reverse the damage. And I am looking forward to hearing more today about which direction they plan to go.”

 

“Mr. Marcus—you have been nominated to lead the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. OCR describes their mission as to “ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.” But unfortunately, this Administration has been moving in the opposite direction. I have made it clear that I believe the current acting assistant secretary—Candice Jackson—should be removed from her position. Not just because of the callous, insensitive, and egregious comments she made regarding sexual assault on college campuses but also because of the way she has worked to narrow the role of the Office, back away from the progress made to protect transgender students, take away the tools and resources it has to protect students, and move it away from that core mission. So I am very glad Secretary DeVos decided to nominate someone else to replace Ms. Jackson. However, the Department has refused to answer our inquiries on a number of troubling civil rights decisions—including the decision to revoke guidance that clarifies transgender students’ rights.”

 

 

Full text of Ranking Member Murray’s opening statement:

 

“Thank you, Chairman Alexander.

  

“And I want to thank the nominees Mr. Marcus, Mr. Collett, Mr. Mugno, and Mr. Beach for being here today and their willingness to serve in these important roles at the Departments of Education and Labor.

 

“You will be responsible for fighting for students, workers, and families, even as President Trump is actively working to undermine the middle class’ access to opportunities and their financial security.

 

“One of the most appalling ways that President Trump has damaged our country is when it comes to civil rights—and undermining the rights and safety of women, people of color, and people with disabilities. 

 

“First of all—this shouldn’t truly be a surprise. There are some areas where President Trump has broken his promises—I will talk about some of those in a bit—but this is one where he has kept them.

 

“This is a President who kicked off his campaign by calling Mexicans criminals. Who called for a ban on all Muslims coming to America, who openly ridiculed a journalist with a disability, who has openly demeaned women, who defended white supremacists rallying in Charlottesville by saying there were “many fine people” among them, and sadly—I can go on and on.

 

“And this is an Administration that has worked every day to implement the vision of their leader—especially in education. Rolling back protections for transgender students, revoking Title IX guidance that protects women and helps bring perpetrators of sexual assault to justice, halting investigations into systemic discrimination, and once again, the list goes on.

 

“Two of the nominees here today—to lead the Office for Civil Rights and the Special Education and Rehabilitative Services—will be in a position to continue these appalling policies, make them worse, or work with us to begin to reverse the damage. And I am looking forward to hearing more today about which direction they plan to go.

 

“Those are some promises President Trump has kept, but now I want to discuss some of the promises President Trump has broken. After more than a year on the campaign trail of telling workers he would put them first, the Trump Administration has done the exact opposite—and prioritized corporations’ profits over their employees.

 

“He has refused to defend an Obama Administration overtime rule that would have ensured 4 million people who work more than 40 hours a week are paid what they deserve. He allowed companies to continue to receive federal contracts paid with taxpayer money regardless of a company’s record on wage and safety violations and weakened health and safety protections for workers—opening the door for companies to put their employees’ lives and livelihoods at risk to maximize their profits.

 

“And—instead of using empirical data to make decisions about the economy, he has denied facts—and at times, lied—about our nation’s job numbers.

 

“These positions within the Department of Labor—the Occupational Safety and Health Administrator and the Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner—cannot continue this harmful pattern—and must instead rely on data for accurate information to prioritize workers and the middle class.  

 

“There is a lot at stake here—so I would like to go through what I want to hear from each of you today.

 

“First, Mr. Marcus—you have been nominated to lead the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. OCR describes their mission as to “ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.” But unfortunately, this Administration has been moving in the opposite direction.

 

“I have made it clear that I believe the current acting assistant secretary—Candice Jackson—should be removed from her position. Not just because of the callous, insensitive, and egregious comments she made regarding sexual assault on college campuses but also because of the way she has worked to narrow the role of the Office, back away from the progress made to protect transgender students, take away the tools and resources it has to protect students, and move it away from that core mission.

 

“So I am very glad Secretary DeVos decided to nominate someone else to replace Ms. Jackson. However, the Department has refused to answer our inquiries on a number of troubling civil rights decisions—including the decision to revoke guidance that clarifies transgender students’ rights.

 

“Mr. Marcus—you and I both share the goal of halting discrimination on the basis of race ethnicity or religion on college campuses—which is certainly an issue OCR will face in light of increased incidence of hateful rhetoric and violence occurring on campuses and in schools.

 

“However, I have serious concerns about your ability to stand up to President Trump and DeVos and do the right thing for students—which is something I plan to ask about today.

 

“Second—Mr. Collett, during her confirmation hearing—in this very room—Secretary DeVos did not seem to understand that IDEA is a federal law and thought states should get to decide whether or not they are living up to the promise of IDEA.

 

“The role you have been nominated for is responsible for improving education and employment opportunities for students with disabilities.

 

“However—during your time at the Kentucky Department of Education, the state was criticized for allowing frequent use of seclusion and restraint in schools—often used on students with disabilities. Only after public outcry and work from the Protection and Advocacy agency did Kentucky take steps to address this.

 

“Additionally—you told my staff you support Secretary DeVos’ privatization agenda—which includes $20 billion school voucher proposal. Voucher programs do not support all of the needs of students with disabilities.

 

“So I hope to hear from you today whether you are willing to commit to protecting students and to standing up to Secretary DeVos if she creates confusion or takes misguided steps for students with disabilities.

 

“Third—Mr. Mugno, OSHA’s mission statement is to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”

 

“As a member of the Chamber of Commerce’s leadership, you fought against new OSHA safety rules—and led efforts to undermine OSHA’s enforcement abilities. And during your time at FedEx, there have been a number of employee deaths, including just two weeks ago on Thanksgiving.

 

“Your record goes against everything OSHA stands for.

 

“So I have major concerns about whether you will stand up for workers—or side with the corporations you have spent your career working for and with.

 

“Finally—Mr. Beach, President Trump not only routinely ignores factual information and spreads misinformation, but has explicitly questioned the validity of BLS jobs numbers when they were not in his favor.

 

“So if or when the economy begins to the decline—I hope you will not succumb to political pressure and put data and statistics ahead of the President’s ego.

 

“Students, workers, and families are counting on all four of you to stand up President Trump and his harmful policies.

 

“So I look forward to hearing from each of you on how you plan to do.

 

“Thank you.”

 

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