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Memphians protest against Betsy DeVos on day before Senate committee scheduled to vote

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Protesters are outside the Federal Building in Memphis, fighting against the nomination of Betsy DeVos as education secretary.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions is scheduled to vote Tuesday on her nomination.

At her confirmation hearing two weeks ago, DeVos, a wealthy Republican donor and school choice activist, faced tough questions regarding her contributions to the Republican Party, her support of charter schools, her views on LGBT rights, sexual assault and other matters. She was also asked to submit answers to written questions.

Democrats said they still needed more information following the hearing, and the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee announced Jan. 20 it was delaying a vote on her nomination until Jan. 31, a week later than planned. The committee says the postponement was to give members more time to review DeVos’ financial and ethical disclosures.

DeVos has pledged to divest her interests in more than 100 companies within 90 days of her confirmation and has resigned positions with school choice advocacy groups to avoid possible conflicts of interest, according to documents released Friday by the Office of Government Ethics.

“Ms. DeVos and her family have incredibly complicated and opaque financial entanglements, and staff is now reviewing all of her and her family’s holdings that have conflicts with her role as secretary of education,” said Eli Zupnick, spokesman for the committee’s Democrats. He added that Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, the top Democrat on the panel, is concerned that the chairman, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, “continues to rush this nominee to a vote before members have a chance to do their due diligence on this nominee and have their questions answered and ethics concerns addressed.”

Democrats and labor unions have protested DeVos’ candidacy, saying she intends to dismantle public education in favor of charter and private schools. They have also voiced concern that her family’s multi-million dollar contributions to Republican candidates and groups constitute a conflict of interest.