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Donald Trump taps Nikki Haley, Betsy DeVos for Cabinet posts amid diversity complaints

President-elect Donald Trump picked two women — one an Indian-American — for Cabinet-level appointments Wednesday, answering critics who complained about the preponderance of white men in the running for prominent roles in the administration.

Mr. Trump announced he would nominate South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and charter school advocate Betsy DeVos for secretary of education.

Both women were well received by the Senate panels that will conduct their confirmation hearings.

But Ms. DeVos immediately encountered resistance from liberal groups and teacher unions, which view school choice as a scheme to privatize public schools, signaling a potentially bruising confirmation process.

Mr. Trump described Ms. Haley, who was an outspoken critic of Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign, as a “proven deal-maker.” He lauded Ms. DeVos, a Republican megadonor and chairwoman of the American Federation for Children, as a “brilliant and passionate education advocate.”

The nominations were announced as Mr. Trump settled in for the Thanksgiving holiday with his family at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. Mr. Trump is not expected to conduct more interviews of Cabinet candidates during the long weekend, but aides said he will be working on transition plans.

“Gov. Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country,” said Mr. Trump. “She is also a proven deal-maker, and we look to be making plenty of deals. She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage.”

Ms. Haley, the American-born daughter of Indian immigrants, was the first woman and first nonwhite tapped for a Cabinet post in the Trump administration.

She said that she was honored to be asked to join Mr. Trump’s team.

“Our country faces enormous challenges here at home and internationally, and I am honored that the President-elect has asked me to join his team and serve the country we love as the next Ambassador to the United Nations,” Ms. Haley said in a statement.

She is one of many former critics the president-elect has reached out to during the transition process. Viewed as a rising star in the Republican Party, Ms. Haley was pushed by many for a role for in the Trump administration.

Sen. Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which will hold the confirmation hearings, signaled a warm welcome for Ms. Haley.

“As a former governor, I believe that Gov. Haley’s executive experience would serve her well in the challenging role of negotiating with all United Nations member states and representing the United States on the Security Council,” said Mr. Kaine, a former Virginia governor and the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee.

He said the U.S. will need “strong leadership” at the U.N. to deal with terrorism, rogue nations and humanitarian crises around the globe, including in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and South Sudan.

Another Democrat on the committee, Sen. Christopher A. Coons of Delaware, commended Ms. Haley for speaking out during the campaign against Mr. Trump’s proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

“I hope she will continue to provide her unvarnished opinion to the Oval Office should she be confirmed for this important post,” he said. “I look forward to digging into Gov. Haley’s record, experience and qualifications for this critical role.”

Beyond the Capitol, Leonard Leo, U.S. delegate to the U.N. Human Rights Commission under President George W. Bush, applauded Mr. Trump’s choice, saying Ms. Haley “will bring the right principles and priorities to the job of U.N. Ambassador.”

“Having served as a governor, she will be able to spot instances where the U.N. is seeking to curb the sovereign interests of our country,” said Mr. Leo. “She is committed to human dignity and will be able to push back on U.N. agendas that elevate abortion over the real human and civil rights atrocities that occur in dictatorships around the world. And she will be a friend to Israel and our own national security interests.”

The Trump campaign touted Ms. Haley’s record inside and outside of government, calling her a “true fiscal conservative and a savvy businesswoman.”

Ms. Haley, 44, became the first female governor of her home state in 2011, and is currently the youngest governor in the country. Before becoming governor, she represented Lexington County in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 2005 to 2011.

She graduated from Clemson University, where she earned a degree in accounting. Ms. Haley and her husband, Michael, a captain in the Army National Guard and a combat veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, have two children, Rena, 18, and Nalin, 15.

The selection of Ms. DeVos to run the Department of Education was likely an easy call for Mr. Trump, who during the campaign regularly championed school choice and the charter school movement, giving a nod to school choice when announcing his pick.

“Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families,” Mr. Trump said in a statement.

Ms. DeVos, a former chairman of the Michigan GOP, vowed to help Mr. Trump remake the education system.

“I am honored to accept this responsibility to work with the President-elect on his vision to make American education great again,” she said. “The status quo in education is not acceptable. Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential.”

However, Ms. DeVos and Mr. Trump don’t necessarily see eye to eye on every education issue.

Ms. DeVos’ charitable foundation is a major donor to Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, which supports Common Core education standards that Mr. Trump has vowed to eliminate.

Ms. DeVos took to Twitter on Wednesday to address the Common Core issue, using an account that had only two tweets in four years before Wednesday’s announcement by the biggest Twitter user ever to win a presidential election.

“Many of you are asking about Common Core. To clarify, I am not a supporter — period,” she wrote, linking to a question-and-answer piece on her personal website, BetsyDeVos.com.

“I do support high standards, strong accountability, and local control. When Governors such as John Engler, Mike Huckabee, and Mike Pence were driving the conversation on voluntary high standards driven by local voices, it all made sense. Have organizations that I have been a part of supported Common Core? Of course. But that’s not my position along the way, it got turned into a federalized boondoggle,” she wrote.

Still, the former Florida governor was one of the first to come forward applauding her nomination. Mr. Bush, a bitter rival of Mr. Trump in the GOP primary race, called Ms. DeVos “an outstanding pick for secretary of education.”

“She has a long and distinguished history championing the right of all parents to choose schools that best ensure their children’s success. Her allegiance is to families, particularly those struggling at the bottom of the economic ladder, not to an outdated public education model that has failed them from one generation to the next,” he said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, called her “an excellent choice” and promised the committee would move swiftly to consider her nomination.

“Betsy has worked for years to improve educational opportunities for all children. As secretary, she will be able to implement the new law fixing No Child Left Behind just as Congress wrote it, reversing the trend to a national school board and restoring to states, governors, school boards, teachers and parents greater responsibility for improving education in their local communities,” said Mr. Alexander, Tennessee Republican.

However, liberal groups and teachers unions slammed the nomination.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, tweeted: “Trump has chosen the most ideological, anti-public ed nominee since the creation of the Dept of Education.”

Marge Baker, executive vice president of the liberal group People for the American Way, said Ms. DeVos “has a long record attacking public education.”

“If confirmed, DeVos would use her position in government to expand and intensify her efforts to undermine public schools. This nomination is bad for our schools, bad for our students and bad for our country,” Ms. Baker said in a statement.

“We’ve seen time and again that schemes to privatize our public education system aren’t about improving educational outcomes: they’re about pushing right-wing ideology and feeding corporate profits. We have to stand up for our public schools and oppose those who seek to undermine them,” she said.

The Trump campaign highlighted her work with the American Federation for Children, whose stated mission is to “improve our nation’s K-12 education by advancing systemic and sustainable public policy that empowers parents, particularly those in low-income families, to choose the education they determine is best for their children.”

She is married to Richard “Dick” DeVos Jr., a Michigan entrepreneur whose father co-founded Amway. Ms. DeVos and her husband remain involved in the business.

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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