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 HatchHatch warns 'dangerous' idea of court packing could hurt religious liberty Former Democratic aide pleads guilty to doxing GOP senators attending Kavanaugh hearing How do we prevent viral live streaming of New Zealand-style violence? MORE (R-Utah) voted by proxy.

Ranking member Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Dems introduce bill to tackle 'digital divide' Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE (D-Wash.) submitted a motion to overturn HELP Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar Alexander Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Five things to know about the measles outbreak 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 FrankenWinners and losers from first fundraising quarter Election analyst says Gillibrand doesn't have 'horsepower to go the full distance' Gillibrand campaign links low fundraising to Al Franken backlash: memo 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 MurkowskiCain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed License to discriminate: Religious exemption laws are trampling rights in rural America On The Money — Presented by Job Creators Network — Cain expected to withdraw from Fed consideration, report says | Dem bill directs IRS to create free online filing service | Trump considered Ivanka for World Bank 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.