Sanders tangles with Trump’s Education pick over college costs

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — House Dems change drug pricing bill to address progressive concerns | Top Republican rejects Dem proposal on surprise medical bills | Vaping group launches Fox News ad blitz Democrats have reason to worry after the last presidential debate Krystal Ball on Sanders debate performance: 'He absolutely hit it out of the park' MORE (I-Vt.) tangled with President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff MORE’s pick for Education secretary Tuesday night over the issue of making public colleges and universities tuition-free.

At her Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing, Sanders asked Betsy DeVos if she would team up with him on the issue of tackling student debt and tuition-free public colleges, which was a centerpiece of his presidential campaign.

"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 nothing in life is really free," DeVos said.

Sanders cut in, noting that there are currently proposals that would pay for the plans, which include "substantially" lowering tax breaks for billionaires.

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When he asked if that proposal sounded reasonable, DeVos didn't answer directly — instead, the billionaire GOP donor talked generally about making college tuition more affordable.

Sanders interrupted her again, saying affordability wasn't his question, circling back to the idea of making public colleges and universities tuition-free.

"I think we can work toward and work hard to make college education in some way affordable," DeVos responded.

During his questioning, Sanders also focused on how much money DeVos and her family have contributed to the Republican Party over the years.

She wasn't able to provide an exact figure, but when Sanders offered an estimate of $200 million, she didn't dispute the figure.

"That's possible," she said.

DeVos's past political donations have been under fire since she was nominated to helm the Education Department. Prior to the hearing, Sanders called on DeVos to repay a fine from her old political action committee from nearly a decade ago.

At the time, DeVos ran All Children Matter, a school-choice PAC that was fined after it exceeded the contribution limit to its Ohio affiliate. The Ohio Elections Commission had previously warned the group that contributing more than $10,000 would be breaking the law. Her PAC has since disbanded.