Reform Movement Shares Questions, Concerns on Trump Administration Nominees

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Reform Jewish Movement offers questions on issues of profound concern to Betsy DeVos, Rep. Tom Price, Scott Pruitt, Andrew Puzder and David Friedman

Contact: Max Rosenblum or Graham Roth
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Press Release from the Religious Action Center

WASHINGTON – In the midst of Senate hearings on several of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of Reform Rabbis, and the wider Reform Movement:

Since Election Day, President-elect Trump has named nearly two-dozen individuals to Cabinet, Ambassadorial and other senior appointed positions. Though we do not expect to always agree with the President-elect or his nominees, we respect his prerogative to choose his appointees, with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. However, we have profound concerns about several of the President-elect’s nominees. Many of them have clearly defined public records that suggest they will pursue policies that contradict values we hold dear. During their upcoming hearings, we expect them to clarify their views.

We have submitted questions to the relevant committees considering the nominations of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education; David Friedman for Ambassador to Israel; Rep. Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services; Scott Pruitt as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator; and Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor. We are highlighting the following questions as central issues the nominees must address as Senators consider their qualifications and fitness for the high offices they have been nominated to hold.

We hope that by addressing these issues during their hearings, Ms. DeVos, Mr. Friedman, Rep. Price, Mr. Pruitt and Mr. Puzder clarify their views and affirm their commitment to advancing a vision of the United States at home and abroad that seeks equality and justice for all.


Key Questions:

Betsy DeVos: A central principle of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause is that members of particular faiths, and not the government, should fund religious institutions. When vouchers are used towards expenses related to religious school education they become an indirect government funding of sectarian institutions. How do you respond to concerns about the use of taxpayer dollars for sectarian education?

David Friedman: As an issue of existential importance for Jews worldwide, opinions on Israel within the Jewish community are diverse, and debate is active. Great sages of our tradition teach us that “debate for the sake of heaven” is healthy and even Divine (Pirkei Avot, 5:17). For this reason, it is important that the State Department, and particularly the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, maintain open and active dialogue with all organizations representing major constituencies of American Jews. How will you foster this dialogue? How do you plan to engage representatives of Jewish organizations representing a variety of perspectives on issues related to Israel? Mr. Friedman has provided significant support and funding for Israeli settlements over the Green Line, the expansion of which pose an obstacle to the peace process. Mr. Friedman has also spoken in deeply offensive ways about his fellow American Jews, calling J Street “worse than kapos,” and the ADL “morons.” Such defamatory language causes us to question whether he has the temperament or judgment to represent the United States in a sensitive diplomatic position.

Andrew Puzder: According to the MIT Living Wage calculator, there are no states in which the minimum wage is sufficient to constitute a living wage. This means that millions of workers who work full-time do not earn enough to cover their necessities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about half of all minimum wage workers are over age 25. Minimum wage workers seek to support themselves and their families. How do you plan to support struggling American families who are hindered by an insufficient minimum wage? What is your position on raising the federal minimum wage?

Rep. Tom Price: If the key elements of the ACA are repealed without an adequate replacement, while consumer protections such as requiring insurance providers to cover those with preexisting conditions remain, it is highly likely that healthy individuals will exit the insurance marketplaces. This would cause premiums to skyrocket for the remaining individuals seeking healthcare insurance, who would be the people most in need of health coverage. What measures would you implement to ensure that insurance costs in the private marketplace do not increase under this scenario? How will you ensure coverage of the 20 million Americans newly covered under the ACA as well as expand the pool of insured Americans?

Scott Pruitt: The EPA’s ability to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal fired power plants - the single largest source of emissions - is crucial to addressing climate change. You are among the state attorneys general currently challenging the Clean Power Plan in the District Court of the District of Columbia. Yet in an amicus brief filed in the case West Virginia et al. v. EPA, 20 climate scientists wrote, “We view the Clean Power Plan, and its promise as an effective tool for reducing one of the primary sources of anthropogenic carbon, as a welcome tool for preventing and reducing the negative impacts of human-caused climate change.” As EPA Administrator, how do you plan to regulate harmful emissions to protect the environment?

Read the full questions submitted by the Religious Action Center at


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose nearly 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit for more.