(CNSNews.com) – “Mrs. DeVos, there is a growing fear, I think, in this country that we are moving toward what some would call an oligarchic form of society where a small number of very, very wealthy billionaires control to a significant degree our economic and political life,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
“Would you be so kind as to tell us how much money your family has contributed to the Republican Party over the years,” Sanders asked her.
DeVos said she wished she could give him a number, but she doesn’t know.
“I have heard the number was $200 million, does that sound in the ballpark?” Sanders asked her.
“Collectively, over my whole family, that’s possible,” DeVos replied.
“My question is, and I don’t mean to be rude, but do you think if you were not a multi-billionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of contributions to the Republican Party, that you would be sitting here today?”
“Senator, as a matter of fact, I do think that there would be that possibility.” DeVos said she’s worked very hard on behalf of parents and children for the last 30 years to empower them to make choices, “primarily low-income children.”
Sanders wasn’t done: “Some of us believe that we should make public colleges and universities tuition-free. So that every young person in this country, regardless of income, does have that option. That’s not the case today. Will you work with me and others to make public colleges and universities tuition free through federal and state efforts?” Sanders asked.
“Senator, I think that’s a really interesting idea; and it’s really great to consider and think about. But I think we also have to consider the fact that there’s nothing in life that’s truly free. Somebody’s going to pay for it—and so--”
“Ohhh, yes, you’re right,” Sanders interrupted. “You’re right. Somebody will pay for it, but that takes us to another issue. And that is…right now we have proposals in front of us to substantially lower tax breaks for billionaires in this country while at the same time, low-income kids can’t afford to go to college. Do you think that makes sense?”
“Senator, if your question is really around how can we help colleges and higher education be more affordable for young people as they anticipate--”
“Actually, that wasn’t my question,” Sanders cut in. “My question is, should we make public colleges and universities tuition free so that every family in America, regardless of income, will have the ability to have their kids get a higher education.”
“Senator, I think we can work together and we could work hard on making sure that college or higher education in some form is affordable for all young people who want to pursue it. And I would look forward to that opportunity, if confirmed.”
Sanders then pressed DeVos for her proposals on “making child care universal for our working families.”
DeVos said she feels very strongly about the importance of young families having good child care, but “I’m not sure that that’s part of the Education Department.”
DeVos said she’s focused on getting children a “quality education… so that they can look forward to a bright and hopeful future.”