The Senate voted Friday to move the nomination of Betsy DeVos for education secretary to a full vote next week.
By a party-line vote of 52-48, the Senate voted to close debate on DeVos’ nomination by President Donald Trump, which has sparked a controversy unlike any seen before over a potential secretary of education. The final vote on DeVos is expected to take place Monday or Tuesday.
Two Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, announced earlier this week they would vote against DeVos. With all Democrats appearing to be opposed to DeVos, the final vote count appears to be tied in the Senate at 50-50—however, in that scenario, Vice President Mike Pence would be able to break such a tie and ensure the success of DeVos’ nomination.
DeVos formerly led the American Federation of Children, which advocates for vouchers and other forms of school choice, and is a prominent GOP donor. Several Republican senators from rural states have been heavily lobbied to join Collins and Murkowski, oppose DeVos, and sink her nomination. But those senators, including Sen. Deb. Fischer of Nebraska and Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, have said in the last few days that they will support DeVos.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the Senate education committee chairman, said in a speech Friday that DeVos “will be an excellent education secretary in my opinion, and an important one.” And he praised her for championing the “all-American idea” of educational choice, although he also stressed that she will not impose mandates for teacher evaluations, vouchers, and other issues from the U.S. Department of Education.
But Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the committee’s top Democrat, blasted DeVos in her own floor speech for DeVos’ lack of qualifications, her opaque and tangled finances, and her lack of belief in public education itself. And she highlighted the enormous pushback to DeVos in the media and through protests.
“Betsy DeVos is committed to privatizing public schools,” Murray said in a speech on the Senate floor.