U.S. President-elect Donald Trump named his first two women for Cabinet-level positions Wednesday - South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as the country's ambassador to the United Nations and charter school advocate Betsy DeVos as his secretary of education.
Haley, the 44-year-old daughter of Indian immigrants, is serving her second term as governor of the mid-Atlantic state, but has no foreign policy experience. DeVos, from the midwestern state of Michigan, is the chair of the American Federation for Children, a group that has aggressively sought to expand the number of charter schools and voucher programs in the U.S. to allow students to attend private schools with taxpayer money.
The appointment of both women, as with Trump's other Cabinet selections, requires Senate confirmation.
In naming Haley, Trump cited her seven overseas trade missions for South Carolina and negotiations with international companies.
“Governor Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country,” Trump said in a statement. “She is also a proven dealmaker, and we look to be making plenty of deals. She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage.”
Devos, a school choice advocate
The president-elect declared that under Devos's leadership, "we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families." She is a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican party.
Some education reformers in the U.S. champion the use of charter schools, which they view as favorable to mass public education to give impoverished children a chance to attend better schools with more personalized instruction. But the president of the country's biggest public teachers' union, Lily Eskelsen Garcia of the National Education Association, immediately attacked Trump's appointment of DeVos, a billionaire philanthropist.
Eskelsen Garcia said DeVos's efforts "over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers — which take away funding and local control from our public schools — to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense."
Haley, a Republican, did not support Trump during the months-long Republican presidential nominating campaign. She initially backed Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and when he dropped out of the race, shifted her support to Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Shortly before the November 8 election, she said that she was not enthusiastic about the choice between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton to take over the White House when President Barack Obama's term ends in January, but that she would vote for Trump.
She criticized his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States and used the national platform giving the Republican Party's response to Obama's last State of the Union address to rebuke Trump's style by saying, "Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference."
Trump called her "weak on immigration" and in March wrote on Twitter, "The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!"
The two met last week in New York where Trump has been interviewing potential Cabinet members to join his new administration. In addition to Haley and DeVos, he has picked Republican party chairman Reince Priebus as his chief of staff, Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon as chief White House strategist, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general, Congressman Mike Pompeo to lead the Central Intelligence Agency and retired Army General Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.
Trump eyes Carson for HUD
Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and another Republican presidential candidate Trump defeated, said he has been offered a Cabinet position as housing and urban development chief, but it is not clear whether he plans to accept. The president-elect described Carson, an African-American, as "a greatly talented person who loves people."
Like Haley, other Republican party figures were lukewarm at best to Trump's candidacy before backing him against Clinton. Among his critics was House Speaker Paul Ryan, who now is celebrating Trump's victory and the opportunity for Republicans to control both houses of Congress and the White House.
On Tuesday, Trump told a meeting of reporters and editors at The New York Times that party leaders are "loving" him.
"Paul Ryan right now loves me, [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell loves me. It’s amazing how winning can change things," he said.
Trump also touted the field of people he is considering for key positions in his government, including the possible appointment of another one-time critic, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, as secretary of state.
"We have many people for every job," Trump said. "I mean no matter what the job is, we have many incredible people."
Trump also told the Times he is "seriously" considering retired General James Mattis as his secretary of defense.
Most recent presidents have not named their most high profile Cabinet nominees -- secretaries of state, defense, treasury and attorney general -- until sometime in December. Obama did so by December 1 after his first election in 2008, while his predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton waited until the last week in December.
Trump's inauguration is set for January 20.