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 HatchMeet Washington's most ineffective senator: Joe Manchin Lobbying world Congress, stop holding 'Dreamers' hostage MORE (R-Utah) voted by proxy.
Ranking member Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayCDC leader faces precarious political moment Schumer ramps up filibuster fight ahead of Jan. 6 anniversary Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE (D-Wash.) submitted a motion to overturn HELP Chairman Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate 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 FrankenMeet the Democrats' last best hope of preserving a House majority Franken rules out challenge against Gillibrand for Senate seat Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour MORE (D-Minn.) asked her about a contentious debate within education policy circles.
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 MurkowskiOssoff and Collins clash over her past support for voting rights legislation Senate GOP blocks election bill, setting up filibuster face-off Schumer prepares for Senate floor showdown with Manchin, Sinema 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.