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 CollinsOPINION: Congress should censure Trump for his unfit conduct No. 2 Senate Republican backs McConnell in Trump fight The fight to protect the Affordable Care Act isn’t over MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiFeds to sell 14 million barrels from oil reserve Immigration battlefield widens for Trump, GOP Trump barrage stuns McConnell and his allies 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 HoevenGOP senator criticizes EPA head's closed-door meeting in North Dakota Senate GOP eyes end to August session McCain absence adds to GOP agenda’s uncertainty MORE (N.D.), Deb FischerDeb FischerSenators eye ticket fee to overhaul airports Lobbying World Congress must stop the assault on taxpayer-friendly freight railroads MORE (Neb.) and Dean HellerDean HellerWhy 'cherry-picking' is the solution to our nation’s flood insurance disaster Club for Growth endorses Nicholson in Wisconsin GOP primary Sen. Heller reveals: I voted for Trump 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 FeinsteinTrump's Democratic tax dilemma Feinstein: Trump immigration policies 'cruel and arbitrary' The Memo: Could Trump’s hard line work on North Korea? 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 Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerDemocrats urge Trump to condemn Charlottesville violence Melania Trump on Charlottesville protests: 'No good comes from violence' It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him 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 MurrayPatty MurrayCBO to release report Tuesday on ending ObamaCare insurer payments OPINION | Progressives, now's your chance to secure healthcare for all McConnell open to bipartisan deal on health insurance payments 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 AlexanderTrump to make ObamaCare payments to insurers for August CBO: ObamaCare premiums could rise 20 percent if Trump ends payments CBO to release report Tuesday on ending ObamaCare insurer payments MORE (R-Tenn.) said Friday. "It's always puzzled me as to why anybody would criticize that."

Updated at 7:51 a.m.