Betsy DeVos’ nomination is in serious trouble as two Republicans have come forward saying they will oppose her as the next secretary of Education.
DeVos was confirmed by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Tuesday, which means that she is headed for a full Senate vote. That is the final step in the confirmation process, and all DeVos needs in order to become the next Education secretary is 51 votes in her favor.
Normally that would be quite easily accomplished. After all, there are 52 Republicans in the Senate, which means President Trump simply has to unite them all behind his cabinet picks and they will all make it through.
But on Wednesday, two Republican senators announced that they will vote against Betsy DeVos: Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Maine Senator Susan Collins. Assuming every Democrat votes against DeVos, as they are expected to, this would lead to a final vote tally of 50 to 50.
In that situation, the vice president breaks the tie, and so DeVos would be approved. But if just one more Republican senator opposes DeVos, she will not make it through the Senate, making her the only member of Trump’s cabinet to be rejected.
A cabinet nominee being rejected by the Senate is extraordinarily rare, and this would be only the second time in the past 40 years that it has happened. The most recent cabinet nominee to be voted down by the Senate was John Tower, President George H.W. Bush’s pick for Defense secretary in 1989. Tower was not approved because it came to light that he had received nearly $800,000 from defense contractors, not to mention the allegations of alcohol abuse and infidelity that surfaced. He was rejected in a 53-47 vote, and he died in a plane crash two years later.
Senators Murkowski and Collins have said that they will not support DeVos due to concerns about her support for charter schools and school vouchers.
“I have serious concerns about a nominee to be secretary of Education…who has been so immersed in the discussion of vouchers,” Senator Murkowski said on the floor of the Senate today.
Throughout her confirmation process, DeVos was questioned on how she will handle public education if she makes it into Trump’s cabinet, considering she has spent years fighting for school vouchers, money given to students and parents so they can attend a private school of their choice rather than their local public school. Her nomination has been opposed by many teachers’ unions.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told The New York Times that DeVos is “the most ideological, anti-public education nominee” in history.
In early January, the National Education Association, the largest labor union in the United States, launched a campaign to ensure DeVos is not approved.
“Betsy DeVos is not qualified, and even more than unqualified, Betsy DeVos is an actual danger to students — especially our most vulnerable students,” National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia told The Washington Post. “She has made a career trying to destroy neighborhood public schools, the very cornerstone of what’s made our nation so strong.”
Liberal activists on Wednesday afternoon urged all those opposed to Betsy DeVos to call their Republican senators.