U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) with U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL).
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) with U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

Iowa’s U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) respond to the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education and U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as Attorney General.

The U.S. Senate confirmed DeVos as Secretary of Education on Tuesday 51 to 50 with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. Both Ernst and Grassley voted for DeVos’ confirmation:

Grassley released the following statement after the vote:

I believe Betsy DeVos will perform the job of U.S. Secretary of Education faithfully and well.  There’s been a lot of misinformation that Mrs. DeVos opposes public schools.  In fact, she’s committed to being an advocate for great public schools.  What’s more, her job will not be to oversee public schools.  That’s handled at the state and local school board levels.  The role of the U.S. Secretary of Education is to implement federal education programs, which are largely targeted at providing additional assistance to disadvantaged students and students with disabilities whether they attend public or private schools.

Mrs. DeVos has worked to help low-income families access the same educational choices that wealthier families routinely exercise.  That includes supporting charter schools, which are public schools, and which have been supported by the past several secretaries of education.  Her work on behalf of disadvantaged students makes her a good match for overseeing the federal role in education.

She’s made it clear that her job would be to enforce all federal laws as Congress intended.  That’s refreshing in light of recent experience.  The Obama Administration overreached in trying to coerce states to adopt its preferred policies.  As a result, Congress passed safeguards to prevent any future secretary of education from pushing policies not included in federal law.

I look forward to having a U.S. Secretary of Education who recognizes that position’s limited role, enforces federal law, and leaves all other educational decisions to the states, local schools, and parents.  And I’ll continue my longstanding practice of nonpartisan oversight to ensure laws are implemented properly, without executive branch overreach.

Ernst recorded a video explaining her vote.

Here’s the transcript:

All children deserve a chance to achieve success regardless of where they are born and the situations their families face.  Having grown up in rural Southwest Iowa, my parents often stressed the importance of a strong education.

In Iowa, we are fortunate to have one of the best public school systems in the nation. And, I am a proud product of our Iowa public school system – as is my 17 year-old daughter, Libby who will graduate this May.

As a mother and grandmother, I firmly believe education should be handled at the state and local level by Iowans, not Washington bureaucrats.

Over the last several weeks, I have thoroughly vetted Betsy DeVos, and have found that she shares the belief that those closest to our students – from parents to teachers to local administrators and local elected officials – know what is best for our students.

Additionally, she has pledged to fight for all students, including those attending public, private, and charter schools and students who require additional support due to developmental, physical, or other disabilities.

While I support her confirmation, I will be holding her accountable to the standard she has placed upon herself.

I have heard from folks on both sides of the debate over Betsy DeVos. Good people can disagree with one another and still engage in a civil, productive discourse.

An open and honest dialogue is important and it’s critical that I continue to hear from you – which you can do by calling one of our offices, sending me a letter, or visit my website Ernst Dot Senate Dot Gov.

I look forward to working with you to protect our schools, restore local control, and prepare our youth to enter the workforce.

Thank you for all that you do.

The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Sessions as Attorney General 52 to 47 on Wednesday, both Grassley and Ernst joined with their Republican colleagues to vote for Sessions.

Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, made the following statement:

There is no one more qualified than Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General. As colleagues, we all know Senator Sessions to be a man of his word. We all know he’ll enforce the laws on the books, regardless of whether he supported them while in Congress.  And we know Senator Sessions will serve as an independent Attorney General. He made these points clear time and again in the 10-plus hours that he fielded questions from the Judiciary Committee and in responses to more than 700 follow-up questions after the hearing.

As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I look forward to working with him in this new capacity to restore independence at the top echelon of the Justice Department and ensure it remains accountable to the people it serves.

Ernst also responded to the vote.

I have had the opportunity to work with Jeff Sessions over the last couple of years through our membership on the Senate Armed Services Committee. I have gotten to know Jeff and witnessed first-hand his commitment to keeping our nation safe. Additionally, his decades of public service have further illustrated that he works hard and fights tirelessly for those he represents.

“I have no doubt that Jeff Sessions will defend our Constitution and impartially uphold the rule of law. I look forward to his service and leadership as our next Attorney General.

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