by Dalton Valette
In a historically contentious confirmation, Betsy DeVos was confirmed 51-50 on Feb. 7 as the new Secretary of Education. Vice President Mike Pence broke a tie in the Senate, the first time a Vice President has had to break a tie in the Senate since 2008. Every Democrat in the Senate voted against DeVos along with two Republican senators.
Leading up to the vote, Democrats seized control of the Senate floor and spoke for 24 hours urging just one Republican senator to vote no on DeVos. The confirmation for DeVos had been a rocky one with the initial decision for the nomination by President Donald Trump drawing immediate scrutiny from teachers unions and education lobbyists. DeVos has never worked in a school or worked in education. She has donated over $200 million to fund education efforts, favoring private schools and voucher programs. Her views drew intense scrutiny from left-leaning members of the Senate and her confirmation hearings brought even more scrutiny following DeVos’ inability to answer even basic questions about proficiency and growth evaluations for students. Her response to safety in schools was roundly mocked for her claiming guns should be allowed in schools to prevent grizzly bear attacks.
DeVos nomination was one Democrats had hoped to derail, and the party leaders still express optimism towards not confirming at least one of Trump’s nominations. Currently, no cabinet positions have faced as serious opposition as DeVos and none have been denied their appointment by the Senate.
Trump has criticized Democrats for delaying numerous his cabinet nominations and has taken to Twitter to voice his outrage. On Feb. 17, Trump tweeted, “It is a disgrace that my full cabinet is still not in place, the longest such delay in the history of our country. Obstruction by Democrats!”
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) has been an outspoken opponent of DeVos and tweeted, “#DeVos was confirmed in a tie that had to be broken by the VP. Don’t be disheartened. Your voices are being heard and we will keep fighting.” Both New Jersey Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker voted against DeVos.
Democrats are targeting Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (R-GA) and Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions (R-AL) now to block. They are also looking to block Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, who may require 60 votes if Democrats utilize a filibuster strategy.
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