Democrats Grill Ed Dept. Nominee

September 20, 2017

Democrats used a Senate nomination hearing Tuesday to press the Department of Education's nominee for general counsel on questions involving federal Title IX policy and oversight of for-profit colleges.

Carlos Muniz, the nominee for general counsel and a former Florida deputy attorney general, is only the third Senate-confirmed education official to be nominated by the administration, after Secretary Betsy DeVos and Assistant Secretary Peter Oppenheim. While Muniz revealed little about how he would act on specific issues, the hearing highlighted areas where congressional Democrats will continue to clash with the department and DeVos.

Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate education committee, said the secretary's "lack of understanding of education issues and current law make it clear she needs an independent" counsel.

Muniz said he understood his "ultimate duty will be to the law, not to any individual or objective."

Democratic senators asked Muniz to commit to upholding the preponderance-of-evidence standard in campus-based Title IX proceedings (he didn't directly answer); asked him whether he would "stand in the way" of other federal agencies investigating for-profits colleges (he said he didn't have a view on the authority of other agencies); and asked him to explain why the Florida AG didn't investigate Trump University or for-profit colleges like Bridgepoint Education (he cited a low number of complaints from Floridians).

It was widely reported last year that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi received a campaign donation from then candidate Donald Trump before declining to pursue an investigation of Trump University, a real estate training program. Her office insisted there was no connection between the donation and that decision. A federal judge this year approved a $25 million settlement between Trump and former students of the real estate seminar.

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