How many GOP senators will stand up to megadonor DeVos? Just 2.
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The comments made on the Senate floor were not of the usual stilted partisan flavor. The debate on Betsy DeVos's confirmation as secretary of Education was brutally candid.

The senators who spoke against her nomination appeared to be speaking with genuine anger. Their words did not seem to be written by some smart staffer; no, they came from the heart.

To sum up the sentiment? It was outrage.

The longest-serving Democratic senator, Pat Leahy of Vermont, started out by saying, "I've seen thousands of confirmations ... not any one like this one." He lambasted DeVos with her own words: She had called public schools a "dead end."

He noted that the Republican majority seemed to be so worried about DeVos that their strategy seemed to be "don't let her speak."

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Senate panel to hold hearing on US coronavirus response | Dems demand Trump withdraw religious provider rule | Trump Medicaid proposal sparks bipartisan backlash Democratic senators urge Trump administration to request emergency funding for coronavirus response Democrats demand Trump administration withdraw religious provider rule MORE (D-Wash.) led the fight. She said that DeVos had an "anti-student agenda" and would have "no credibility inside the agency she is supposed to lead."

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe Democratic nominee won't be democratically chosen Surging Sanders looks for decisive win in Nevada Bloomberg to do interview with Al Sharpton MORE (D-Mass.) took an hour to make her case with these clear words: "It is difficult to imagine a worse choice." That DeVos is "for profit charter schools without strong oversight." That "She is embarrassingly unprepared ... has no experience in higher education."

DeVos, according to Warren, "could profit from the decisions she makes," has "shady investments," and "secret trusts." Warren implored her colleagues not to "ignore her hostility to public schools."

Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDemocratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students Trump under pressure to renew last nuke treaty with Russia Celebrating and expanding upon five years of the ABLE  Act MORE (D-Pa.) noted that 92 percent of his state's students go to "traditional schools" and that he told DeVos, when they had met in his office, that she "will not be the secretary for private education."

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) argued that DeVos has "an astonishing ignorance of the agency she plans to lead." And then, with a piercing salvo, quoted her leading home-state paper, the Detroit Free Press, which had editorialized that DeVos "would end public education as we know it."

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenAl Franken blasts Susan Collins: She'll let Trump 'get away with anything' Bill Press: Don't forget about Amy Key moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far MORE (D-Minn.) called it "the most embarrassing confirmation I've ever seen." But his best point was his plea that Republican colleagues "set aside party loyalty," because if they could not do that when it came to the DeVos nomination, "What are we even doing here?"

But that argument only reached two GOP senators, Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe new American center Democratic Senate campaign arm raised more than .5 million in January On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump MORE of Maine and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump budget includes proposal for US Consulate in Greenland Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE of Alaska.

Every other Republican toed the party line.

One who should have known better was Tennessee Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Trump administration's harmful and immoral attack on children Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE. For far too long, Alexander has had a reputation as a "responsible moderate." You might remember his two presidential forays, when he paraded around in red-and-black plaid shirts like some working-class Joe.

Alexander does have credentials — credentials perfectly suited to judge DeVos. Alexander had served as secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush. He has been governor of Tennessee and, especially relevant, president of his state's flagship public university.

To top it off, he is the son of a principal and a teacher. But all of this in no way enlightened him in regards to DeVos. None of his background or expertise gave him pause or curbed his enthusiasm for this uniquely unqualified person.

Let's call it what it is: DeVos's nomination was a big giant thank-you and political payoff for a person and a family who had given millions to the GOP for decades. A quid pro quo.

Why didn't President Trump just appoint DeVos the ambassador to some faraway, tiny island nation? She would have gladly accepted and we all would have been spared the entire embarrassing spectacle.

Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner. Previously, he was the political analyst for WAMU-FM, Washington's NPR affiliate, and later became the political analyst for WTOP-FM, Washington's all-news radio station. He is a winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in writing.


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