Senate Votes to Close Debate on DeVos, Conduct Full Vote Next Week
The United States Senate voted early Friday to advance the nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of the Department of Education (ED) to a full note next week.
By a 52-48 vote along party lines, the Senate voted to close debate on DeVos’ nomination by President Donald Trump, which has been one of his most controversial cabinet picks and could be the most contentious nomination for an ED secretary in American history.
CNN reported that the final confirmation vote is expected Monday, while Education Week said the vote is expected to take place Monday or Tuesday.
Earlier this week, two Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska announced that they would vote against DeVos. All Democrats have indicated that they would oppose DeVos. Thus, the final vote count appears to be tied in the Senate at 50-50. In that case, Vice President Mike Pence would have the ability to break the tie and ensure the success of DeVos’ nomination. Such a tie-breaking vote has never before occurred for a cabinet nominee.
In a strong demonstration of opposition, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged his fellow senators to “look into their conscience” over the weekend and reconsider their support for DeVos, whom he called “one of the worst nominees that has ever been” brought before the Senate.
“Sometimes loyalty to a new president demands a bit too much,” he said. “With this nominee it does.”
DeVos, a billionaire from Michigan, is former head of the American Federation for Children, which supports school vouchers, private education and other forms of school choice. She never attended public school and never sent her children there. She is also a prominent Republican donor, conceding during hearings that her family has probably donated as much as $200 million to GOP politicians.
DeVos raised serious questions during her confirmation hearing in January. She appeared confused that there was a federal law covering student with disabilities, did not demonstrate familiarity with key education issues, and suggested that guns in schools were needed in rural areas such as Wyoming “to protect from potential grizzlies.”
Her financial investments have also been called into question for conflicts of interest.
In education technology, one potential conflict is DeVos’ decision to maintain her multi-million-dollar investment in Neurocore, a Michigan-based biofeedback company that aims to help children with ADHD, autism, depression and other afflictions do better in school.
Though several Republican senators from rural states have been lobbied to oppose DeVos, none have expressed that they will. Thus, if no other GOP senators defect, DeVos is expected to win the post of education secretary in what will be the closest vote in American history.
Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].