Speeches & Floor Statements

Opening Statement: HELP Committee Holds Hearing on 4 Well-Qualified Nominees for Positions at the Education and Labor Departments

Posted on November 15, 2017

EDUCATION NOMINEES

I am glad the committee has the opportunity to act on these important nominations, particularly for the position of Deputy Education Secretary.
 
If confirmed, General Zais will be Secretary DeVos’s Number 2 at the department.
 
When I was Education Secretary under President George HW Bush, I recruited David Kearns to be Deputy Secretary.
 
David was the former chief executive officer of the Xerox Corporation and also a champion of education reform.
 
I knew it would be hard to persuade him. His friends said: Why in the world would you go into the government and subject yourself to all that abuse and take a secondary position in a minor department? So I asked President Bush to call David and recruit him, and he did, appealing to his patriotism. They both served in World War II.
 
David had such a passion for education that he came on board. He put his enthusiasm, skill and leadership to work. Employees loved having him around. And he helped me recruit a distinguished team of leaders for the Department and get important things done.
 
In 1995, I was in Utah trying to persuade Republicans that I was their natural nominee for President of the United States. I wasn't successful in that, but I was enthusiastic. During the speech, I talked about my work as Secretary and about David Kearns. Afterward, a lady came up to me and said: That was a wonderful speech. Now I know who should be President.
 
Well, thank you, I said.
 
She smiled and said: David Kearns.
 
So it’s an important position and General Zais has an excellent and deep background for it.
 
General Zais has been the chief state superintendent of South Carolina’s public schools, spent 10 years as a college president, was a member of South Carolina’s Commission on Higher Education, and after 31 years in the U.S. Army, he retired as a Brigadier General.  
 
General Zais was nominated on October 5.  On October 30, the Committee received his committee paperwork.  On November 9, we received his Office of Government Ethics paperwork, including his public financial disclosure and ethics agreement. 
 
James Blew is also nominated for an important position—to help Secretary DeVos develop policies at the department and help manage the budget and ensure that programs are working as intended.
 
For the past month, Mr. Blew has served as a special assistant to the Education Secretary.
 
For 20 years, he has advocated for improving educational opportunities for families and children by overseeing grants to low-income, high risk schools.
 
Mr. Blew was nominated on September 28.  On October 10, we received his Office of Government Ethics paperwork, including his public financial disclosure and ethics agreement. On November 2, we received his committee paperwork. 
 
LABOR NOMINEES
 
We also have two important Labor Department nominations today.
 
Kate O’Scannlain has been nominated to serve as the Labor Department solicitor. As solicitor, Ms. O’Scannlain will be involved in every area of the department’s work – from developing regulations to undertaking litigation.
 
The Department is reviewing two Obama administration rules that need to be fixed:
 
First, the overtime rule: My concerns are the rapid rate of increase – the salary threshold was set to double overnight-- and the harm it would cause staff at nonprofits, and students at colleges and universities. 
 
The second – the fiduciary rule will make it harder for many middle-income Americans to get retirement and financial advice they need.
 
Ms. O’Scannlain is a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where her practice focuses on employment and labor law.
 
Ms. O’Scannlain was nominated on October 5.  On October 17, the committee received her Office of Government Ethics paperwork, including her public financial disclosure and ethics agreement. On October 19, 2017, we received her HELP paperwork. 
 
Preston Rutledge is nominated for Assistant Secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration, where he will help administer and enforce Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which protects the interests of Americans participating in employee pension and welfare benefit plans.
 
Mr. Rutledge serves as senior tax and benefits counsel for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee under Chairman Hatch.
 
Mr. Rutledge previously served as a senior tax law specialist at the Internal Revenue Service, and as a senior technical reviewer in the Qualified Pension Plans Branch of the IRS Office of Chief Counsel. 
 
Mr. Rutledge was nominated on October 16.  On October 25, the Committee received his committee paperwork.  On October 30, we received his Office of Government Ethics paperwork, including his public financial disclosure and ethics agreement. 
 
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.