Pence Breaks Senate Tie to Confirm Betsy DeVos

Vice President Mike Pence arrives at the Senate on Feb. 7, 2017, to cast the tie-breaking vote for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — After an all-night marathon by Senate Dems holding the floor to protest the nomination of school-choice advocate Betsy DeVos, Vice President Mike Pence was brought in to break a Senate tie and confirm President Trump’s pick.

It was the first time the Senate historian could remember a vice president needing to break a tie on a cabinet confirmation.

The 50-50 vote happened with the promised “no” votes from Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Collins said she was “troubled and surprised by Mrs. DeVos’ apparent lack of familiarity with the landmark 1975 law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, that guarantees a free and appropriate education to children with special needs.”

The Maine senator also stressed she was “concerned that Mrs. DeVos’ lack of experience with public schools will make it difficult for her to fully understand, identify, and assist with those challenges.”

Murkowski also said she was concerned about DeVos’ support for public schools, saying Trump’s pick has been “so involved in one side of the equation – so immersed in the push for vouchers – that she may be unaware of what actually is successful in the public schools, and what is broken or how to fix them.”

Democrats had been trying for one more GOP defection, with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) noting “millions and millions of calls, almost unprecedented on a cabinet nomination, have poured into this Capitol into Democratic and Republican offices alike” to protest DeVos.

“What should be happening is she should go back for a second hearing now that her paperwork is in,” Schumer said on the Senate floor today, referring to her late ethics paperwork filing. “What should happen is she should be asked more questions because she was so unable to answer so many rudiments last time.”

“What should happen is there should be more time, not less, on debating this nominee. Not because we want to be dilatory, but because we want a nominee who at least meets some basic tests—and she does not,” he added. “And that is why there will be every Democrat voting against her and two Republicans who show tremendous courage.”

On the Senate floor Monday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) slammed Democrats’ “obstruction” overall on Trump’s cabinet picks and said Schumer was “under a great deal of pressure from those on the left who simply cannot accept the results of a democratic election.”

“They’re calling for Democrats to delay and punt and blockade the serious work of the Senate at any cost,” McConnell said. “They would like nothing more than for Democrats to continue to ‘resist’ and prevent this president from moving our country forward.”

He called DeVos “a well-qualified candidate” who will “improve our education system so that every child has a brighter future.”

“Importantly, she also understands that our teachers, students, parents, school boards, and local and state governments are best suited to make education decisions — not Washington bureaucrats,” McConnell added.