Senate advances DeVos's nomination, setting her up for final vote

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Education, overcame a key Senate hurdle early Friday morning, clearing the path for her expected confirmation.

Senators voted 52-48 to advance DeVos’s nomination. No Democrats voted yes.

The vote, which came during a rare Friday session, sets up lawmakers to take a final vote early next week. 

Vice President Pence is expected to have to break a 50-50 tie, the first time a vice president will cast the deciding vote on a Cabinet nomination.

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Senate rules require an extra 30 hours of debate before senators can confirm DeVos. If Democrats refuse to yield back time and drag out the procedural clock, they could push a final vote until Tuesday.

Republicans have no room for error to clear DeVos, with GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Gang of Four to meet next week on immigration Republicans agree — it’s only a matter of time for Scott Pruitt Skyrocketing insulin prices provoke new outrage MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiIcebreaking ships are not America’s top priority in the Arctic 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families Trump plan to claw back billion in spending in peril MORE (Alaska) saying they’ll vote against her.

The GOP mega-donor has been the subject of fierce opposition from teachers unions and other liberal groups opposed to her support for charter schools and tuition vouchers using public funds.

Opponents are hoping to peel off a third Republican senator but appear unlikely to succeed.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), whom the Huffington Post reported as the “best option” for sinking the nomination, announced his support for DeVos late Thursday.

“I am pleased to vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education,” he said in a statement. “Too many American kids are being left behind every day. That is not acceptable to Betsy DeVos, and it is not acceptable to me.”

GOP Sens. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border GOP senators want NAFTA deal from Trump by Labor Day Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA MORE (N.D.), Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerErnst, Fischer to square off for leadership post McConnell will ask Cornyn to stay on GOP leadership team Graham downplays need for bill reining in Trump on tariffs after White House meeting MORE (Neb.) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — GOP lawmakers race to find an immigration fix 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Defiant Trump meets with House GOP amid border blowback MORE (Nev.) —each considered potential swing votes — also said this week that they would support Trump’s pick.

Collins separately said that she isn’t trying to sway her GOP colleagues to vote against DeVos.

“I am doing what I think is right, and I respect that each senator has to make up his or her own mind,” she told reporters. “I’m not lobbying. I gave my speech on the floor.”

Opponents have also flooded Senate phone lines urging members to vote against her, and social media feeds have also been hit hard by anti-DeVos messages.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGrassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report Senate Gang of Four to meet next week on immigration Live coverage: High drama as hardline immigration bill fails, compromise vote delayed MORE (D-Calif.), who came out against DeVos on Thursday, noted she had received 95,000 calls, emails and letters opposing her nomination. Murkowski separately said she received “thousands” of calls from concerned constituents.

Senate Democrats blasted DeVos ahead of the vote, arguing her lack of experience with public schools should disqualify her from leading the Education Department.

"When you judge her in three areas — conflicts of interest, basic confidence and ideology, views on Education policy — it is clear that Betsy DeVos is unfit for the job of Education secretary," Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMontana's environmental lobby teams with governor to kill 600 jobs Dems allow separation of parents, children to continue, just to score political points Democrats' education agenda would jeopardize state-level success MORE (D-N.Y.) said. "In all three areas ... she ranks among the lowest of any Cabinet nominee I have ever seen."

Under a 2013 decision, Democrats voted to lower the threshold for lower court and Cabinet posts to a simple majority from the previous 60-vote threshold.

If they hadn’t, Trump’s more controversial nominees, including DeVos and now-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, would likely not have been confirmed.

"A whole lot of people heard Betsy DeVos herself for the first time in that [confirmation] hearing, and they were not impressed, to put it mildly," Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges —Dems, health groups demand immigrant children be quickly reunited with families White House releases sweeping proposal to reorganize government Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor MORE (Wash.), the top Education panel Democrat, said after the vote. "Her vision for education in America is one that is deeply at odds with ... parents and students and families."

Despite the pushback, Senate GOP leadership and the White House stayed firmly in DeVos’s corner.

"She has spent her time working on giving children choices of schools other than public schools," Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Supreme Court allows states to collect sales taxes from online retailers | Judge finds consumer bureau structure unconstitutional | Banks clear Fed stress tests Supreme Court rules states can require online sellers to collect sales tax 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families MORE (R-Tenn.) said Friday. "It's always puzzled me as to why anybody would criticize that."

Updated at 7:51 a.m.