The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) on Tuesday morning approved Betsy DeVos’s nomination to lead the Department of Education.
DeVos was confirmed 12-11 along party lines. Her nomination will now go to the Senate floor, where she’ll need only need a simple majority to be confirmed.
Senate Democrats objected to the first vote, arguing that the tally was actually 11-11 because Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchTop Senate GOPer: Border tax 'probably dead' Overnight Finance: Inside Trump's tax plan | White House mulls order pulling out of NAFTA | New fight over Dodd-Frank begins GOP leaders, top tax writers: Trump principles will be 'critical guideposts' MORE (R-Utah) voted by proxy.
Ranking member Patty MurrayPatty MurrayDems unveil bill targeting LGBT harassment on college campuses Trump said he would create ‘more jobs and better wages’ — he can start with federal contractors Sanders, Dems introduce minimum wage bill MORE (D-Wash.) submitted a motion to overturn HELP Chairman Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderTrump's FDA nominee clears key Senate committee Groups warn of rural health 'crisis' under ObamaCare repeal Trump’s Army pick faces tough confirmation fight MORE’s (R-Tenn.) ruling to uphold the vote, but the motion was denied along party lines.
Alexander called another vote to approve DeVos’s nomination with Hatch present and it was advanced, 12-11.
The billionaire GOP donor faced a contentious hearing earlier this month, when Senate Democrats questioned her commitment to public education and grilled her on her conflicts of interest.
DeVos stumbled on some questions, notably when Sen. Al FrankenAl FrankenFranken, top Dems blast FCC over net neutrality proposal Senate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general Twitter jumps on news of O'Reilly's ouster MORE (D-Minn.) asked her about a contentious debate within education policy circles.
While she voted to approve DeVos in committee, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiTrump’s Army pick faces tough confirmation fight Republican Sen. Collins considering run for Maine governor in 2018 Alaska senators push bill to allow Arctic drilling MORE (R-Alaska) said she’s still unsure how she’ll vote when the nomination comes to the Senate floor.
But Republicans can afford a defection with a 52-seat Senate majority.
“Do note, she has not yet earned my full support,” Murkowski said during Tuesday’s hearing. “I would not advise yet that she count on my vote.”
Murkoswki's office is one of several that's been targeted by outside groups opposing the nomination and hoping to sway enough Republicans to vote against DeVos.
The executive session for the HELP Committee had been postponed one week, giving senators more time to review DeVos’s letter to the Office of Government Ethics in which she outlined how to avoid conflicts of interest.
Democrats repeatedly asked for a second round of questioning at her hearing, but Alexander denied the request and only gave himself and Murray additional time.
Senate Democrats pushed for a second hearing, writing in a letter to Alexander that they were “extremely disappointed” by the first one. The Tennessee Republican rejected holding another hearing.
In the days leading up to the hearing, Franken said that no Democrats would vote for DeVos and liberal groups jammed senators’ phone lines with thousands of calls urging them to oppose her nomination.
But, so far, no firm Republican defections have materialized.
Updated 12:40 p.m.