The Senate confirmed controversial Trump cabinet nominee Betsy DeVos on Tuesday after Senate Democrats waged a 24-hour campaign to convince a single Republican senator to change votes and tip the scales against the nominee.
Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote in favor of DeVos, marking the first time a vice president has had to act as the tie-breaker in a cabinet nominee confirmation vote.
Opponents of DeVos argue that she lacks experience with the public education system. She has spent a large portion of her personal fortune promoting school choice and voucher programs. In addition, her controversial answers during her committee hearing set off a wave of activist and constituent phone calls urging Republican Senators to reconsider their votes.
The widespread opposition to DeVos and her committee hearing answers about the public school system led Republican Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to announce that they would vote against her confirmation in the full Senate last week.
Collins’s and Murkowski’s defections left the vote at a tie, which was broken by Pence’s historic vote.
Senate Democrats spent the 24 hours leading up to the vote hosting a “talkathon” on the Senate floor. Senators detailed their objections to DeVos’ nomination and called upon their Republican colleagues to change their votes.
Senator Al Franken (D-MN) took to the floor this morning to speak against DeVos’ nomination:
“To my colleagues who are still considering a vote in her favor: if Mrs. DeVos’ performance didn’t convince you that she lacks the qualifications for this job, what would have had to happen in that hearing in order to convince you? If you can not bring yourself to vote against this nominee, is there anyone that the president could nominate for any position that you could vote against? And if we cannot set aside party lines long enough to perform the essential duty of vetting the president’s nominees, what are we even doing here?
The Constitution gives us that power to reject cabinet nominations specifically so that we can prevent fundamentally ill-equipped nominees like Betsy DeVos from assuming positions of power for which they are not qualified. Let’s do our job. For the sake of our children, let’s do our job.”
Despite the prolonged effort, Senate Democrats were unsuccessful in blocking DeVos’ nomination. The Democratic National Committee responded to her confirmation in a statement following the vote:
“President Trump’s swamp got a new billionaire today. Millions of teachers, parents and students could not have made their opposition to Betsy DeVos’s confirmation any clearer – they do not want someone whose only education experience is dismantling public schools.
The statement continued:
“A Republican senator like Dean Heller or Jeff Flake could have cast the single vote needed to halt this confirmation. Instead, their constituents in states like Nevada and Arizona will cast their votes next year to kick them out of office for selling out their state’s public school children.”
Nonetheless, President Trump has another Cabinet nominee confirmed.