Senate set for high-noon vote to confirm DeVos

The Senate is poised to vote on Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as secretary of Education at noon Tuesday, with Vice President Pence possibly casting a tie-breaking vote backing President Trump’s controversial Cabinet pick.

Republicans have only 50 votes behind DeVos with the defections of GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators push to limit transfer of military-grade equipment to police MORE (Alaska), which could lead to a historic moment for Pence.

ADVERTISEMENT

He would be the first vice president to ever cast a decisive vote in a 50-50 tie over confirming a Cabinet nominee.

Pence would also be the first vice president to break a Senate tie since 2008, when then-Vice President Dick Cheney cast a vote on a tax adjustment plan.

No Democrats are backing DeVos, and no other Republicans are expected to break with her, despite a last-ditch effort by the minority party to put pressure on the GOP.

Republican Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenBipartisan senators seek funding for pork producers forced to euthanize livestock House Republicans threaten pushback on Saudi Arabia amid oil market slump Overnight Energy: Trump rollback of Obama mileage standards faces court challenges | Court strikes down EPA suspension of Obama greenhouse gas rule | Trump floats cutting domestic oil production MORE (N.D.), 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.) and Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerBipartisan senators seek funding for pork producers forced to euthanize livestock Top Georgia Republican endorses Doug Collins Senate bid Senators balance coronavirus action with risks to health MORE (Neb.) — each considered potential swing votes — have announced their support for DeVos.

Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerRepublicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday Top intelligence officials to brief Gang of Eight on Thursday MORE (D-N.Y.) on Monday pled with Republicans from the Senate floor, urging them not to put “party above country.”

“We need just one more vote, and we can get a lot better secretary of Education than the one who was nominated,” Schumer said.

Democrats have targeted eight Trump Cabinet picks, including DeVos, but Schumer argued that the Education pick is the “least qualified” of Trump’s nominees.

DeVos, a GOP mega-donor long active on education issues, has been the subject of fierce opposition from teachers unions and other liberal groups opposed to her support for charter schools and tuition vouchers that use public funds.

She has also come under fire from Democrats over reports that several lines and phrases in her committee-submitted questionnaire appeared to be lifted without attribution from other sources.

And DeVos endured a rocky confirmation hearing in which she at one point appeared to advocate for guns in school because of the possibility of a grizzly bear attack, at least in Wyoming.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden chips away at Trump's fundraising advantage Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter The Hill's Morning Report - Trump lays low as approval hits 18-month low MORE (D-Mass.) joined the Democratic floor protest, arguing “it is difficult to imagine a worse choice” to head up the department.

“The Republicans have made it clear no matter her experience, no matter her radical views ... they will ram this nomination down the throats of the American people sideways,” Warren, a possible presidential candidate in 2020, said during a nearly hourlong speech.

Warren said on Monday that DeVos’s performance during her confirmation hearing — which was panned by pundits in both parties — was “shocking.”

“I assume that the rush to complete this nomination has something to do with the fact that Republicans’ phones have been ringing off the hook,” she added.

Liberals have sought to jam Republican phone lines with protests over DeVos’s nomination. Senators in both parties say they have received thousands, if not tens of thousands, of calls, emails and letters urging them to oppose the nomination.

Progressive groups, including the American Federation of Teachers and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, paired up with teachers and students to rally against DeVos’s nomination outside of the Capitol on Monday evening.

Republicans on Monday said they were confident DeVos would win a victory on Tuesday.

“I’m confident we’ll get Ms. DeVos confirmed soon,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday New legislation required to secure US semiconductor leadership MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican. “Then, thanks to former Democratic leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell warns Democrats not to change filibuster rule Filibuster reform gains steam with Democrats The Hill's Morning Report - Trump wants executive order on policing; silent on pending bills MORE ... every single one of President Trump’s Cabinet nominees will be confirmed. We can take that to the bank.”

In a 2013 decision, Democrats, led by the Nevada senator, decided to get rid of the higher 60-vote procedural threshold for lower-court nominees and Cabinet picks.

The Democrats’ decision made it easier to confirm some of Obama’s nominees in 2013 and 2014, but under the old rules, DeVos’s confirmation almost certainly would have been blocked.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell'Comrade' Trump gets 'endorsement' from Putin in new mock ad by Lincoln Project ACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants Carville repeats prediction that Trump will drop out of race MORE (R-Ky.) blasted Democrats for slow-walking Trump’s nominees. Trump has gotten seven of his picks confirmed — the same number President Obama got confirmed on the first day of his administration in 2009.

“Enough is enough,” McConnell said on Monday. “It’s far past time to put the election behind us and put this President’s Cabinet into place — just as previous Senates have done for previous newly elected Presidents of both parties.”

Republicans on Monday noted that the pace of Trump’s nominees is the slowest since George Washington, citing data from the Senate Historical Office.

The growing GOP frustration over the treatment of Trump’s nominees comes after Republicans changed the rules on some committees to leapfrog Democratic boycotts and approve Trump’s nominees without a Democrat present.

Cornyn — who has defended the GOP maneuvers — accused Democrats of playing “petty politics.”

“This type of behavior is pretty juvenile if you ask me, and it can’t actually accomplish anything,” he said. “They don’t have any particular goal in mind because at the end of the day, the president will get the Cabinet that he has nominated and deserves.”