USED & White House
Update on Political Appointments at ED
Preston Byrne

The U.S. Senate voted 55-43 on Wednesday to confirm Carlos Muñiz to serve as General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), joining five other confirmed presidential appointments at the Department.  Muñiz was first nominated by President Trump in June of last year.


Muñiz’s nomination was opposed by almost every Democratic senator, and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) took to the Senate floor prior to the vote to urge her colleagues to vote “no.”  “It's clear Secretary DeVos needs an independent General Counsel who will stand up to her when laws are being bent or broken.  But I am afraid Mr. Muñiz has failed to convince me that is the kind of General Counsel he would be,” Murray said.


In addition to Muñiz, five other top political positions have thus far been confirmed by the Senate, including Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs Peter Oppenheim, Chief Financial Officer Douglas Webster, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Johnny Collett, and Director of the Institute of Education Sciences Mark Schneider.


Nominees currently awaiting a vote by the full Senate include: Jim Blew for Assistant Secretary of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development; Kenneth Marcus for Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights; Mitchell Zais for Deputy Secretary; and Frank Brogan for Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education.  In addition, the President’s recently announced nominee to lead the Rehabilitative Services Administration, Mark Schultz, has yet to testify in front of or receive a vote from the Senate HELP Committee.


Given that Muñiz, who was one of the first ED nominees announced last year, was not confirmed by the full Senate until 10 months following his initial nomination, it is unlikely that the majority of the remaining pending nominees will receive a vote within the next few weeks.


President Trump has yet to announce nominations for Under Secretary, as well as Assistant Secretaries for Career, Technical, and Adult Education; Postsecondary Education; and Communications and Outreach.


It is possible that White House may be holding off on selecting nominees for some of the remaining positions due to rumored proposed plans to reorganize ED, which have been leaked in recent weeks.  The proposal, which has reportedly not been finalized, includes consolidating or eliminating a number of ED program offices, including the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education and the Office of the Under Secretary.


Brustein & Manasevit will continue to track updates on ED political appointments, as well as who is serving in open positions in an “acting” capacity, on our website.


Resources:Andrew Ujifusa, “Senate Confirms Nominee to Be Top Attorney at DeVos Education Department,” Education Week: Politics K-12, April 18, 2018.


Author: KSC

About the Author

Kelly Christiansen is an associate with the Washington, DC law firm of Brustein & Manasevit, PLLC. Established in 1980, the Firm is nationally recognized for its federal education regulatory and legislative practice, providing legal advice regarding compliance with all major federal education programs as well as the federal grants management requirements, including the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR). In addition, they work with agencies on federal spending flexibility, allowability, policies and procedures, audit defense and resolution and legislative updates. The Firm provides government relations services for the National Title I Association.