WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence cast the first tie-breaking vote ever for a Cabinet-level nominee Tuesday for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, confirming her as the next education secretary.
The vote came after Democrats held the floor for more than 24 hours of debate criticizing DeVos over her qualifications for the job.
Two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, voted against DeVos bringing the Senate to a 50-50 tie. Pence broke the tie by casting a vote in favor of confirming DeVos. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters at a press briefing following the vote that his caucus truly believed they had a chance of bringing over at least one more Republican to their side– a feat that would have defeated the nomination.
“I thought we had some chance. We realized even if we didn’t, we had to make the point that Secretary DeVos is so anti-public education and it was an important point to make and, believe me, we’re going to be following all the decisions she makes at the Department of Education,” Schumer said.
In the final minutes of debate, Senate Assistant Minority Leader Patty Murray made final remarks excoriating DeVos, saying the American public “learned about the extreme right wing ideology that drives [DeVos] — how she wants to bring her anti-government, free market above all philosophy to an education system that she called nothing more than — ‘an industry and a dead end.'”
Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander shot back in the remaining minutes of debate time saying on the floor that DeVos was treated unfairly by Democrats throughout the confirmation process.
“She offered to meet with [Democrats], and they refused. She finally met with them in their offices — then follow-up questions. We asked Obama education secretaries 53 and 56 questions. They asked her 1,400 questions, and then they met in one of their member meetings and announced they all agreed to vote against her before she had a chance to answer the questions,” Alexander said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his leadership team slammed Democrats for slow walking all of Trump’s cabinet choices after DeVos’ confirmation.
“This level of of obstruction at the beginning of an administration is really record setting in an unfortunate way. It’s really time for a our friends on the other side to get over the election,” McConnell told reporters. The Majority leader confirmed that Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions confirmation vote for Attorney General will be held Wednesday. Confirmation votes for Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price and Treasury Secretary nominee Stephen Mnuchin are expected to happen this week as well.
When asked if Democrats plan to launch another another 30 hour debate Tuesday for the Sessions confirmation vote Schumer only responded, “stay tuned.”