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.

ADVERTISEMENT
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 CollinsStates fill family caregiver void left by Congress GOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate bill would cut EPA funding by 0M GOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal 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 HoevenOvernight Health Care: Initial Senate tax bill doesn't repeal ObamaCare mandate | 600K sign up for ObamaCare in first four days | Feds crack down on opioid trafficking Overnight Finance: Senate GOP unveils different approach on tax reform | House tax bill heads to floor | House leaders eye vote next week | AT&T denies pressure for CNN sale Adoption tax credit restored after conservative backlash MORE (N.D.), Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerOvernight Health Care: Mandate repeal sparks fears of premium hikes | HHS nominee to get Senate hearing this month | Trump officials eye work requirements for Medicaid recipients Overnight Regulation: Senators unveil bipartisan gun background check bill | FCC rolls back media regs | Family leave credit added to tax bill | Senate confirms banking watchdog Family leave tax credit added to latest GOP tax bill MORE (Neb.) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerAnother perfect storm: Why we must act before flood insurance runs dry Senators introduce bipartisan gun background check bill Dem PAC bullish on Senate chances 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 FeinsteinFive things to know about the elephant trophies controversy The feds need to be held accountable for role in Russia scandal Lawyer: Kushner is 'the hero' in campaign emails regarding Russia 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 SchumerJuan Williams: The politics of impeachment Texas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request Dem rep: Trump disaster aid request is 'how you let America down again' 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 MurrayGOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal Murkowski: ObamaCare fix not a precondition for tax vote 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 AlexanderGOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal Murkowski: ObamaCare fix not a precondition for tax vote MORE (R-Tenn.) said Friday. "It's always puzzled me as to why anybody would criticize that."

Updated at 7:51 a.m.