November 30, 2020
Could Rand Paul, who once advocated eliminating the Education Department, really become the Senate’s top voice on higher education?
It’s not the most likely outcome in the jockeying expected before the end of the year or at the beginning of next year over who will replace retiring senator Lamar Alexander as the top Republican on the Senate’s education committee.
But it’s also a distinct possibility depending on how a scandal involving another senator plays out, and higher education lobbyists and policy experts are privately concerned.
Eliminating the Education Department, as Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky, advocated in his 2016 presidential campaign, likely won’t happen, particularly during the Biden administration.
But if Paul, who has a Libertarian belief that the federal government should play a minimal role in people’s lives, were to be the top Republican on the education committee, “it would raise concerns about what else he could do to undermine the value and work of the department,” said one lobbyist, who asked not be named in order to speak freely.
And should Republicans win even one of two runoff Senate races in Georgia on Jan. 5 to keep control of the body, Paul or whoever is selected by Republican leaders would chair the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. They would be able to set the agenda on discussions over higher education issues for at least the next two years.