Two GOP senators still undecided on final DeVos vote

Two GOP senators still undecided on final DeVos vote
© Greg Nash

Two GOP senators are undecided on whether they’ll support President Trump’s Education secretary pick, Betsy DeVos, when her nomination comes up for a floor vote.

GOP Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiGOP Medicaid cuts will be disastrous for millions with Alzheimer’s Overnight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they'll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticism The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP Medicaid cuts will be disastrous for millions with Alzheimer’s Rocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill Overnight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they'll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticism MORE (Maine) voted to approve DeVos during Tuesday’s meeting of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. DeVos was approved along party lines and her nomination will now go to the Senate floor for full consideration.

Both Republican senators voiced concerns about DeVos and say they remain on the fence about how they’ll vote on the floor. 

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“Do note that she has not yet earned my full support,” Murkowski said at Tuesday’s session. “I would not advise yet that she count on my vote."

Murkowski met with DeVos twice and said she “admires” that the billionaire GOP donor has used her “considerable resources” to help children get access to a good education.

But the Alaska Republican flagged concerns about DeVos’s experience with public schools and noted that DeVos "has been so involved in one side of the equation" regarding her push for charter schools and school choice.

“I continue to have concerns and I think that Mrs. DeVos has much to learn about our nation’s public schools," Murkowski said.

Collins also voiced some skepticism about DeVos’s emphasis on school choice. The Maine Republican said she was “surprised” by DeVos’s “apparent lack of familiarity” with a federal law that requires public schools to provide a “free and appropriate public education” to students with disabilities.

“Nevertheless her concentration on charter schools 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,” Collins said at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Therefore, I will continue to evaluate this nomination before it comes to the floor, even as I vote today to advance it so that all of our colleagues have the opportunity to assess this nominee.”

Murkowski and Collins have been targets of liberal groups that have jammed the phone lines of GOP senators, urging them to oppose DeVos’s nomination.

Credo Action’s vice president and political director, Murshed Zaheed, said its members made 18,000 calls to HELP Committee members regarding DeVos that targeted a number of senators, including Murkowski.

In the days leading up to the hearing, Sen. Al FrankenAl FrankenDrug pricing order would cut regulations Dems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Congress poised to prohibit airlines from forcibly removing customers MORE (D-Minn.) said that no Democrats would vote for DeVos and were looking for Republican defectors to join them. If all 48 Democrats oppose DeVos, the party would need three more Republicans to vote with them to deny her the job. Republicans have a 52-seat Senate majority.

Updated 3:17 p.m.