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 HatchPhRMA CEO 'hopeful' Trump officials will back down on drug pricing move Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing Trump praises RNC chairwoman after she criticizes her uncle Mitt Romney MORE (R-Utah) voted by proxy.

Ranking member Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySen. Murray says Washington behavior reminds her of former preschool students Senate rejects government-wide ban on abortion funding Overnight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal MORE (D-Wash.) submitted a motion to overturn HELP Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGrassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices McConnell blocks House bill to reopen government for second time Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks 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 FrankenIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination Bill Maher defends Bernie Sanders campaign over sexual harassment allegations Gillibrand defends calling for Franken to resign during stop in Iowa 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 MurkowskiTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World Kaine to force Senate to hold rare Saturday session amid shutdown 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.