Senate committee approves DeVos nomination

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) on Tuesday morning approved Betsy DeVos’s nomination to lead the Department of Education.

DeVos was confirmed 12-11 along party lines. Her nomination will now go to the Senate floor, where she’ll need only need a simple majority to be confirmed.

Senate Democrats objected to the first vote, arguing that the tally was actually 11-11 because Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (R-Utah) voted by proxy.

Ranking member Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds Chris Murphy may oppose bipartisan health bill unless it addresses ObamaCare 'sabotage' Key senators release bipartisan package to lower health care costs MORE (D-Wash.) submitted a motion to overturn HELP Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks Horse abuse for ribbons and prizes has to stop Overnight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds MORE’s (R-Tenn.) ruling to uphold the vote, but the motion was denied along party lines.

Alexander called another vote to approve DeVos’s nomination with Hatch present and it was advanced, 12-11.

The billionaire GOP donor faced a contentious hearing earlier this month, when Senate Democrats questioned her commitment to public education and grilled her on her conflicts of interest.

DeVos stumbled on some questions, notably when Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Tariff battle looms as Trump jabs 'foolish' Senate GOP Barbs start to fly ahead of first Democratic debate MORE (D-Minn.) asked her about a contentious debate within education policy circles.

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But Republicans on the committee praised her education credentials, though one GOP senator expressed skepticism about DeVos.

While she voted to approve DeVos in committee, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks Overnight Defense: Officials brief Congress after Iran shoots down drone | Lawmakers fear 'grave situation' | Trump warns Iran | Senate votes to block Saudi arms sales | Bombshell confession at Navy SEAL's murder trial The 7 GOP senators who voted to block all or part of Trump's Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Alaska) said she’s still unsure how she’ll vote when the nomination comes to the Senate floor.

But Republicans can afford a defection with a 52-seat Senate majority.

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

Murkoswki's office is one of several that's been targeted by outside groups opposing the nomination and hoping to sway enough Republicans to vote against DeVos.

The executive session for the HELP Committee had been postponed one week, giving senators more time to review DeVos’s letter to the Office of Government Ethics in which she outlined how to avoid conflicts of interest.

Democrats repeatedly asked for a second round of questioning at her hearing, but Alexander denied the request and only gave himself and Murray additional time.

Senate Democrats pushed for a second hearing, writing in a letter to Alexander that they were “extremely disappointed” by the first one. The Tennessee Republican rejected holding another hearing.

In the days leading up to the hearing, Franken said that no Democrats would vote for DeVos and liberal groups jammed senators’ phone lines with thousands of calls urging them to oppose her nomination.

But, so far, no firm Republican defections have materialized.

Updated 12:40 p.m.