Senate Confirms Trump Pick for Civil Rights Job

June 8, 2018

The Senate voted 50 to 46 along party lines Thursday to confirm Kenneth Marcus as the next head of the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

The vote drew praise from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as well as criticism from groups who said Marcus hadn't demonstrated a commitment to defend civil rights and marginalized communities during the confirmation process.

Marcus is the president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a civil rights group founded to fight anti-Semitism. Previously, he served as acting assistant secretary for civil rights under the George W. Bush administration.

“We are excited and grateful to finally have Ken on our team," DeVos said in a written statement. "His vast civil rights experience will be a great asset as we fulfill our mission to serve America’s students. In his many years of public service, Ken has shown himself to be a strong advocate for victims of intolerance and discrimination, and he will not back down when it comes to protecting the civil rights of all students.” ​

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said Marcus had shown a willingness to support policies of DeVos and President Trump that contradicted civil rights law.

"The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has a mandate to enforce core nondiscrimination laws in schools and protect children from discrimination," she said in a statement. "Those responsibilities are not optional. Now it is incumbent upon Marcus to take the mandate of the office seriously, correct the mistakes of the past, and fulfill his duties. Our children deserve no less."

As the leader of the Brandeis Center, Marcus frequently weighed in on campus debates involving speech attacking the state of Israel. His track record is less extensive on other controversial issues handled by the Office for Civil Rights, including campus sexual assault complaints.

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