Betsy DeVos Likely to be Confirmed by Senate in Vote Today; But VP Pence May Have to Break Tie

The Senate will vote today on the confirmation of Michigan education activist Betsy DeVos to serve as the Trump administration’s secretary of education — a tally that is likely to require Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking ballot.

If the vote does split evenly, Pence, using his authority as president of the Senate, will have to break the impasse, which would represent the first time the vice president will have broken a tie to confirm a presidential nominee.

The day before the vote, Democrats staged a 24-hour marathon of speeches, in which more than 30 lawmakers came to the floor to urge at least one additional Republican to vote against DeVos and block her confirmation.

“It is hard to imagine a worse choice,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said before she read letters from constituents urging her to vote no.

DeVos stirred up vehement opposition from teachers’ unions and all 48 Senate Democrats, all of whom will vote against her. Many cited concerns about her support of school vouchers, which critics believe will weaken public schools, and her lack of experience, having never attended nor worked in the public education system. Others cited her lack of familiarity with a landmark law protecting the education needs of disabled children.

The Michigan billionaire was also panned for a gaffe during her confirmation hearing, when she hedged on an answer about guns in schools by saying some states like Wyoming might need them to defend against “potential grizzlies.”

DeVos’ nomination also incited above-average negative reaction from everyday voters, who have flooded Senate phone lines and email addresses in recent weeks. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said his office received 14,000 calls about DeVos alone.

In addition to the entire Democratic caucus, two moderate Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska announced they would not support DeVos.

During a speech announcing her opposition to DeVos, Collins said that her focus on charters and vouchers “raises the question of whether or not she fully appreciates that the Secretary of Education’s primary focus must be on helping states and communities, parents, teachers, school board members, and administrators strengthen our public schools.”

Before the confirmation vote, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted on a party-line basis, 12-11, to refer her nomination to the full Senate.

ABC News