Delaware U.S. senators tee off on Trump nominees

2017-02-01 14:32:12 by T4N
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Delaware U.S. senators tee off on Trump nominees Matthew Albright , The News Journal 8:02 a.m. ET Jan. 29, 2017 Sen. Thomas Carper has sharply criticized President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt. (Photo: HEATHER WINES, GNS) 427 CONNECT 10 COMMENT EMAIL MORE Delaware's U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons are not pulling punches in their opposition to many of President Donald Trump's cabinet nominees. This fierce resistance is unusual for the two politicians who historically have preferred bipartisan compromise. "I'm a recovering governor. Whether the president has been George W. Bush or Barack Obama or even Donald Trump, my inclination is to give the president the benefit of the doubt," Carper said. "Having said that, this is a very different president, and the team he is putting together is a very different team." Both Carper and Coons say Trump's nominees are unprecedented. MORE: A look at rare drama around cabinet confirmations in Delaware "I don't believe we have ever had a cabinet with the kind of nominees that have been put forward by President Trump, at least in my lifetime," Coons said. "It is a stunning number of nominees who either lack government experience, have dedicated their careers to undermining, suing or challenging the agency they're being charged with running, or have ... very complex conflicts of interest." Buy Photo Sen. Chris Coons vocally opposes several of President Donald Trump's cabinet nominees. (Photo: Suchat Pederson/The News Journal) Carper is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which means he has spent much of his energy scrutinizing Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general Trump has asked to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. "I spent a huge amount of time on understanding him and his record, and the conclusions I came to were troubling, " Carper said. "As attorney general, he eliminated the environmental protection unit in his office. He has raised millions from the fossil fuel industry and from dark money that we don't know where it comes from and used it to attack the EPA on many fronts, whether that's clean air or mercury." Coons and Carper both called out Betsy DeVos, whom Trump wants to lead the Department of Education. Coons said her responses in a Senate hearing suggested she did not understand basic education concepts, like the difference between academic "growth" and "proficiency" — meaning whether schools should be measured on how well their test scores improved or how they were performing in absolute terms. Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education. Both Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper oppose her confirmation. (Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI, AFP/Getty Images) He also said she did not seem to understand the federal government's important role in making sure students with disabilities get the help they need. "Betsy DeVos said things in her hearing that just make it exceptionally difficult for me to see my way to supporting her," Coons said. MORE: More on the confirmation hearing for DeVos that raised questions for Democrats Carper said his office has received 4,600 emails, phone calls and letters about Trump's nominees, and fewer than 100 were urging support. "I've never experienced, in my time in the Senate, this kind of outcry from the people of Delaware in response to the president's nominees," said Carper, who has held his seat since 2001. "Frankly, we haven't seen this much interest in the workings of the federal government since the Affordable Care Act." Trump's nominees, particularly DeVos, have spurred unusually fierce outcries in state-level politics, too. All 25 members of the House Democratic Caucus signed a letter to Carper and Coons saying DeVos was "wholly unqualified" because she had never worked in a public school as a teacher, principal or superintendent. Her confirmation would "set public education back and cause serious — perhaps irreparable — harm to to our schools," the letter said. State Democratic Party Chairman John Daniello and Stephanie Hansen, the Democrat running in the crucial Feb. 25 race to fill the 10th Senate District seat, both issued news releases on DeVos. They blasted five state Republican state senators who signed a letter supporting DeVos, joining state-level Republicans from all over the country. "This letter highlights the divide between my position on public education and the position of the Republican Party in Delaware," wrote Hansen, who has been endorsed by the Delaware State Education Association teachers union. "I stand with our Delaware teachers and paraprofessionals in opposing the appointment of Betsy DeVos." Hansen's race is crucial for Democrats. If she loses, the party would lose control of the state Senate for the first time in decades. State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, suggested Democrats are simply trying to fire up their voters. "It's unfortunate that they're trying to do this for a political advantage," Pettyjohn said. Pettyjohn said he signed the letter before DeVos' confirmation hearing, which gave him some reservations. But he said, "One of the things I do support is giving more power and control over education decisions to the state and the school districts." Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, criticized Republicans for supporting DeVos, who he believes is "clearly unqualified and unprepared," while refusing to approve Gov. John Carney's nominee to lead the Delaware Department of Natural Resources, Shawn Garvin. The Senate Republican Caucus never gave an official reason for their opposition to Garvin, but some individual senators said they were worried about Garvin's previous job as a regional administrator at the EPA. Many conservatives say that agency has placed onerous regulations that hurt business. "On the one hand, you have them supporting someone with no experience in public education, and on the other, they're not giving a real explanation of why they oppose Shawn Garvin, who is immensely qualified," Townsend said. "Why wouldn't you want your next secretary of DNREC to understand how the EPA works? That is just throwing red meat to certain people, and it is extremely saddening to see this kind of political posturing in Delaware." Bryan Townsend is a State Senator representing District 11, which includes Newark. (Photo: File photo) Pettyjohn argues it is the Democrats, not the GOP, who are posturing on Garvin's nomination. He said the Democrats knew there were concerns about Garvin on the other side of the aisle, but forced a confirmation battle so they could accuse Republicans of obstructionism. "We felt there was a lot of pressure for us to just confirm him without time to digest," he said. "I personally take my role very seriously to advise and consent." Contact Matthew Albright at malbright@delawareonline.com, (302) 324-2428 or on Twitter @TNJ_malbright. 427 CONNECT 10 COMMENT EMAIL MORE Read or Share this story: http://delonline.us/2jKoETQ TOP VIDEOS

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