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Senate advances DeVos's nomination, setting her up for final vote

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Education, overcame a key Senate hurdle early Friday morning, clearing the path for her expected confirmation.

Senators voted 52-48 to advance DeVos’s nomination. No Democrats voted yes.

The vote, which came during a rare Friday session, sets up lawmakers to take a final vote early next week. 

Vice President Pence is expected to have to break a 50-50 tie, the first time a vice president will cast the deciding vote on a Cabinet nomination.

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Senate rules require an extra 30 hours of debate before senators can confirm DeVos. If Democrats refuse to yield back time and drag out the procedural clock, they could push a final vote until Tuesday.

Republicans have no room for error to clear DeVos, with GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate locks in hate crimes deal, setting up Thursday passage Bipartisan group of senators holds immigration talks amid border surge Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHarris casts tiebreaking vote to advance Biden nominee Bipartisan group of senators holds immigration talks amid border surge Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban MORE (Alaska) saying they’ll vote against her.

The GOP mega-donor has been the subject of fierce opposition from teachers unions and other liberal groups opposed to her support for charter schools and tuition vouchers using public funds.

Opponents are hoping to peel off a third Republican senator but appear unlikely to succeed.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), whom the Huffington Post reported as the “best option” for sinking the nomination, announced his support for DeVos late Thursday.

“I am pleased to vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education,” he said in a statement. “Too many American kids are being left behind every day. That is not acceptable to Betsy DeVos, and it is not acceptable to me.”

GOP Sens. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults now eligible for COVID vaccines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults can get vaccine; decision Friday on J&J vax Biden to hold second meeting with bipartisan lawmakers on infrastructure MORE (N.D.), Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerMcCarthy and Biden haven't spoken since election Against mounting odds, Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden meets with bipartisan lawmakers for infrastructure negotiations MORE (Neb.) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (Nev.) —each considered potential swing votes — also said this week that they would support Trump’s pick.

Collins separately said that she isn’t trying to sway her GOP colleagues to vote against DeVos.

“I am doing what I think is right, and I respect that each senator has to make up his or her own mind,” she told reporters. “I’m not lobbying. I gave my speech on the floor.”

Opponents have also flooded Senate phone lines urging members to vote against her, and social media feeds have also been hit hard by anti-DeVos messages.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' Senate Democrats call on Biden to restore oversight of semiautomatic and sniper rifle exports Overnight Defense: Army moves to combat sexual crimes | Eight West Point cadets expelled | Democratic senators want to restrict F-35 sale to UAE MORE (D-Calif.), who came out against DeVos on Thursday, noted she had received 95,000 calls, emails and letters opposing her nomination. Murkowski separately said she received “thousands” of calls from concerned constituents.

Senate Democrats blasted DeVos ahead of the vote, arguing her lack of experience with public schools should disqualify her from leading the Education Department.

"When you judge her in three areas — conflicts of interest, basic confidence and ideology, views on Education policy — it is clear that Betsy DeVos is unfit for the job of Education secretary," Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOn The Money: Yellen touts 'whole-of-economy' plan to fight climate change | Senate GOP adopts symbolic earmark ban, digs in on debt limit Hillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Lawmakers reintroduce bill to invest billions to compete with China in tech MORE (D-N.Y.) said. "In all three areas ... she ranks among the lowest of any Cabinet nominee I have ever seen."

Under a 2013 decision, Democrats voted to lower the threshold for lower court and Cabinet posts to a simple majority from the previous 60-vote threshold.

If they hadn’t, Trump’s more controversial nominees, including DeVos and now-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, would likely not have been confirmed.

"A whole lot of people heard Betsy DeVos herself for the first time in that [confirmation] hearing, and they were not impressed, to put it mildly," Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayHouse passes bill to combat gender pay gap Schumer kicks into reelection mode Democrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act MORE (Wash.), the top Education panel Democrat, said after the vote. "Her vision for education in America is one that is deeply at odds with ... parents and students and families."

Despite the pushback, Senate GOP leadership and the White House stayed firmly in DeVos’s corner.

"She has spent her time working on giving children choices of schools other than public schools," Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderSenate GOP faces retirement brain drain The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - CDC news on gatherings a step toward normality Blunt's retirement deals blow to McConnell inner circle MORE (R-Tenn.) said Friday. "It's always puzzled me as to why anybody would criticize that."

Updated at 7:51 a.m.