WASHINGTON (AP) — Charter school advocate Betsy DeVos won confirmation as Education Department secretary Tuesday by the slimmest of margins, pushed to approval only by the historic tie-breaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence.
Two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, joined Democrats in a marathon effort to derail the nomination of the wealthy Republican donor. The Senate historian said Pence’s vote was the first by a vice president to break a 50-50 tie on a Cabinet nomination.
Despite the win, DeVos emerged bruised from the highly divisive nomination fight. Opposed by half the Senate, she faced criticism, even ridicule for lack of experience and confusion during her confirmation hearing. At one point, she said some schools should have guns because of the threat of grizzly bears.
And there has been scathing opposition from teachers’ unions and civil-rights activists over her support of charter schools and her conservative religious ideology.
President Trump accused Democrats of seeking to torpedo education progress. In a tweet before the vote, he wrote, “Betsy DeVos is a reformer, and she is going to be a great Education Sec. for our kids.”
DeVos was sworn in hours after the Senate vote by Pence, who told the new Cabinet member: “I wasn’t just voting for you. Having seen your devotion to improving the quality of education for some of our most vulnerable children across the nation for so many years, I was also casting a vote for America’s children.”
“I can tell you, my vote for Betsy DeVos was the easiest vote I ever cast,” Pence said.