The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee advanced Dr. Cardona’s nomination on Feb. 11, with leaders of both parties expressing confidence in two areas that were challenges for Ms. DeVos: his qualifications and his willingness to work with Congress. During the hearing, he demonstrated knowledge of federal policy and the intricacies of class sizes. He also walked a fine line on issues that are dicey for both parties, including charter schools and standardized testing.

The education post, once a quiet cabinet position, became one of the most high-profile and divisive jobs in the Trump administration.

Dr. Cardona is expected to oversee an ambitious agenda set by the Biden administration that seeks to reverse virtually everything the previous administration has done, while pursuing new goals like delivering large infusions of federal funding to the nation’s public schools. The department also shrank significantly under the Trump administration, and morale was among the worst of any government agency.

Unlike Ms. DeVos, Dr. Cardona has little experience in politics and is largely untested in the partisan battles that await him.

In the only tense exchange with Republican lawmakers during his confirmation hearing, Dr. Cardona signaled that he would not bend to some political pressures, particularly those concerning civil rights. When asked whether he would allow transgender female students to compete on sports teams with biological females — an issue that is sure to be the subject of policy and court battles — he said he believed that “schools should offer the opportunity for students to engage in extracurricular activities, even if they’re transgender.”

After the hearing, Dr. Cardona tweeted a short message — the only public statement he made as he awaited his final confirmation vote. “All means all,” he wrote.


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