DeVos poised to take step toward Trump Cabinet

The Senate will vote at 6:30 a.m. Friday morning to advance the nomination of Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s controversial pick to serve as secretary of Education.

The unusual Friday morning vote will set up a final vote on DeVos for Monday or Tuesday where Vice President Pence may have to cast the deciding vote.

Defections by two GOP senators — Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsAn ode to Joe Manchin's patriotism on his birthday Susan Collins challenger hit with ethics complaints over reimbursements Overnight Health Care: Insurance lobby chief calls Biden, Sanders health plans 'similarly bad' | Trump officials appeal drug price disclosure ruling | Study finds 1 in 7 people ration diabetes medicine due to cost MORE of Maine and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Green groups sue Trump over Endangered Species Act changes | Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency | Wildfires in Amazon rainforest burn at record rate Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency out west The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate MORE of Alaska — have given the GOP zero margin for error.

But it does not appear that opponents of DeVos have succeeded in picking off another GOP vote.


Two Republicans that Democrats had identified as potential swing votes, Sens. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerThe 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Landmark US-Russia arms control treaty poised for final blow GOP senator introduces bill banning 'addictive' social media features MORE (Neb.) and John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal Senators introduce bill to prevent border agency from selling personal data MORE (N.D.), announced Thursday they would vote yes after receiving assurances from the nominee.

“I have received assurances from her in writing that the Department of Education will not impose new federal mandates related to vouchers on our schools. Local educators, schools boards and parents should be the decision makers, not bureaucrats in Washington,” Fischer said in a statement first released to the Omaha World-Herald.

Hoeven made a similar statement to reporters announcing his support.

“I’ll support her. The key is that she supports local control of education,” he said. “It should be up to the state and local school districts to determine how to educate our kids.”

He said that DeVos has also assured him that she strongly supports public education.

Two other GOP potential swing votes, Sens. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (Nev.), who is up for re-election in 2018, and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAnti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid Arpaio considering running for former sheriff job after Trump pardon Overnight Energy: Warren edges past Sanders in poll of climate-focused voters | Carbon tax shows new signs of life | Greens fuming at Trump plans for development at Bears Ears monument MORE (Ariz.), also say they will back her.

“She’ll be confirmed — you can take that to the bank,” said a confident Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges MORE (R-Texas).

The Huffington Post reported Thursday afternoon that they now see Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) as the “best option” for derailing DeVos but his office quashed that hope in a statement calling her a “great pick.”

“Betsy DeVos is a champion of school choice and Sen. Toomey believes she is a great pick,” his spokeswoman told PhillyVoice in an email. “Sen. Toomey does appreciate the feedback from folks in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania.”

DeVos has been the subject of a fierce effort by opponents to torpedo her nomination. Opponents have flooded Senate phone lines urging members to vote against her, and social media feeds have also been hit hard by anti-Devos messages.

No Democrats are expected to back DeVos, a billionaire who backs charter schools and vouchers that critics say could pull funding from public schools.

DeVos also endured a rocky confirmation hearing that only added to the opposition against her nomination.

If Democrats had not changed the filibuster rules when they ran the chamber, it is almost certain DeVos would not be confirmed. The rule changes mean a 60 vote majority is no longer required to clear nominations — aside from those to the Supreme Court.

That means DeVos needs just 50 votes — plus the support of Pence, to be confirmed.

Once the Senate votes to end debate on the DeVos nomination, the chamber’s rules require that 30 hours must elapse before a final vote. Democrats may be able to milk the clock until Tuesday by refusing to yield back time and requiring the Senate to be in session for the entire time.

Conryn told The Hill on Thursday that he expected the final vote to take place Monday but later amended his estimate to suggest Tuesday as another possibility.

The GOP decided against working through the weekend.

A group of Senate Republicans plan to attend a weekend fundraising event for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in Florida and an unnamed senator has a family issue to take care of, scrubbing the possibility of weekend votes.

Collins announced Thursday she would oppose DeVos because of her history as a leading advocate of school vouchers and other programs designed to incentivize the creation of private alternatives to public schools.

Despite her opposition, Collins was still able to extract a promise from DeVos not to support legislation mandating that states use vouchers or attempt to condition federal funding on the establishment of voucher programs.

Collins also said she was “troubled” by what she called DeVos’s “lack of familiarity” with the Individuals with Disability Act, which requires schools to provide special services to disabled children.

Murkowksi told colleagues the she will oppose DeVos because of concern over her “lack of experience with public education and the lack of knowledge that she portrayed in her confirmation hearing.”

“The strongest public school system is a priority” in Alaska, Murkowski emphasized, because many schools serve remote rural areas where voucher-funded private options would make little sense.

She explained that her constituents have also questioned DeVos’s commitment to funding students with disabilities and whether she would force voucher programs on Alaska.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - How will Trump be received in Dayton and El Paso? McConnell faces pressure to bring Senate back for gun legislation Criminal justice reform should extend to student financial aid MORE (R-Tenn.), who handled DeVos’s confirmation hearing, defended her on the floor as someone who will make an “excellent Education secretary” and praised “her commitment to public education.”

He defended her advocacy in favor of voucher programs by arguing the growth of charter schools is “the most important reform on public schools in 30 years.”

Senate GOP leadership aides said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTwo years after Harvey's devastation, the wake-up call has not been heeded McGrath releases ad blasting McConnell with coal miners in Kentucky: 'Which side are you on?' Prediction: 2020 election is set to be hacked, if we don't act fast MORE (R-Ky.) was never in doubt that he would have enough votes to confirm DeVos, a sign that he may have given Collins and Murkowski the green light to vote no.