Sen. Jerry Moran is a likable guy. It’s too bad that being one of the crowd is so important to him.
Last year, for a while at least, he demonstrated genuine political courage. He said Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court and an individual about whom Republicans could find little to criticize, deserved a hearing. He was right. He also was all but alone among Republican senators in holding such a view.
It drew him the unwelcome attention of the Judicial Crisis Network and the Traditional Values Network, the latter of which likened him to Judas Iscariot for daring to break Republican ranks.
He got the message. Suddenly, through spokespersons, he let it be known that hearings wouldn’t be necessary for him to conclude that Judge Garland wasn’t qualified after all. And just like that, Sen. Moran was back in the fold.
That episode comes to mind this week because after initially expressing understandable misgivings about Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Education. Sen. Moran said Thursday that he was confident that she would work “to make certain that all Kansas students are better off and that education decisions are made by those who understand the unique needs of Kansas kids: educators, administrators and parents at the local level.”
Sen. Moran’s change of heart was unfortunate. It all but assured that an individual who is close to clueless on education issues will administer an agency that establishes education policy, holds schools accountable and distributes money.
His decision was important because he actually could have made a difference. That’s because two other Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, had recognized that Ms. DeVos is little more than a billionaire with an affinity for school choice and announced that they would vote against Ms. DeVos. Another Republican “no” vote could derail her candidacy. The full Senate is expected to vote on her nomination Monday.
In her confirmation hearing she couldn’t explain IDEA. It’s the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a vital law that protects the educational rights of disabled individuals. Moreover, valid questions of plagiarism have been raised about some of the written answers she gave to lawmakers’ questions. Among them was a passage that seemed to have been taken verbatim from a U.S. Department of Education website. Another example involved comments that appeared copied almost word for word from a 2016 press release that quoted the top civil rights official in the Justice Department, Vanita Gupta.
Ms. DeVos’s most pertinent qualification appears to be her wealth, which apparently is vast enough to offset liabilities that ought to matter more.