The Senate will hold a procedural vote Friday to move forward on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as President Donald Trump’s education secretary -- but the decision of two Republicans senators to oppose her could cause trouble for her final confirmation vote next week.
Both Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announced Wednesday that they would vote against DeVos on her final confirmation vote -- the first Republicans to oppose any of Mr. Trump’s nominees thus far. Though some GOP senators like Lindsey Graham and John McCain had initially expressed concerns about secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, both ultimately voted to confirm him Wednesday.
Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Murkowski said the calls and emails of her constituents played a big role in her decision to oppose DeVos.
“Their concerns center, as mine do, on Mrs. DeVos’ lack of experience with public education and the lack of knowledge that she portrayed in her confirmation hearing,” she said. “I think Mrs. DeVos has much to learn about our nation’s public schools, how they work and the challenges they face.”
Collins, too, said she was bothered by DeVos’ lack of knowledge about the public school system, particularly in rural areas, saying she won’t support her nomination as a result.
“This is not a decision that I have made lightly,” Collins said. “I have a great deal of respect for Mrs. DeVos. I believe that she is a good person.”
Unless other Republicans announce their opposition, it is still likely that DeVos will be confirmed -- though potentially by a razor-thin margin. Republicans currently hold 52 seats in the Senate to Democrats’ 48 -- and if DeVos’s nomination resulted in a 50-50 tie, Vice President Mike Pence would be the tie-breaking vote. Thus, for DeVos’ confirmation to be denied, all Democrats and one additional Republican would need to vote against her.