John King Confirmation Quandary
On February 11, 2016, President Obama announced his intention to formally nominate acting US secretary of education, John King, for the official position of US secretary of education. In October 2015, when Obama announced that King would replace Arne Duncan, Obama indicated that he would not formally nominate King because Obama did not want to wrangle with trying to convince a newly Republican-majority Senate to confirm his choice.
However, in February 2016, it seems that the Republican-majority Senate is eager to confirm King as the next US secretary of education. On February 22, 2016, Senator Lamar Alexander– one of the chief architects of the newly-reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)– seems especially eager to formally confirm a US secretary of education– even if it is King:
While Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is one of the Republicans trying to slow-walk a new Supreme Court justice following the death of Antonin Scalia, he’s in a hurry to confirm a new education secretary.
He says John King wouldn’t be his choice. But Alexander says the country also needs someone in charge right now.
“Especially during this year when we’re going to be implementing the law that fixed No Child Left Behind, it’s important to have in place a secretary that is confirmed by the Senate and accountable to the Senate.”
That overhaul to No Child Left Behind was shepherded through congress by Alexander, himself a former Education Secretary.
Alexander now chairs the senate committee overseeing education. He’s scheduled a hearing for Thursday and hopes to have King confirmed before the Easter recess.
Alexander wants a confirmed US secretary of education so that that person answers to the Senate. As it stands, unconfirmed, acting secretary King would be in charge of ESSA implementation without answering to the newly-seated Senate regarding its implementation– and ESSA is Alexander’s baby.
Note also that when Alexander says that he hopes to have King confirmed before the Easter recess, it likely means that he already has the votes. After both House and Senate voted to approve their respective ESEA drafts in July 2015, Alexander said he hoped to have ESEA reauthorization done by December 2015, and it was– with much of the hashing out of details done out of the public eye and amending and approving a lightening-speed, mere formality.
So, here is the quandary surrounding King: 1) Have him unconfirmed (and unaccountable to the Senate) as he wields the wand over initial months of the 2016-17 implementation of ESSA, or 2) confirm a man who has no business being acting secretary in the first place (see here, as well) so that he is at least accountable to the Senate when ESSA is put into place.
I’ll tell you, it is a quandary.