Republican Senators Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) announced today they are voting no on Betsy DeVos Education Secretary. This means there is now only one vote standing between DeVos getting confirmation or going home to Michigan in a cloud of shame and plagiarism.
Right now zero Democratic Senator are voting for her, but if no other Republicans defect then Vice President Mike Pence would be the tie-breaker and DeVos would achieve confirmation. Because of the changed Senate rules, cabinet appointees now only need a simple majority of 51 votes.
However these two defections make it a 50/50 proposition that DeVos will or won’t be confirmed. Perhaps the biggest obstacle now standing in her way is a matter of timing. If Senate Dems are successful in delaying her nomination until after Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is confirmed as Attorney General, then Sessions will no longer be eligible to vote for her. This would drop DeVos’ vote total to 50, which would not be enough to break the deadlock.
In a strong statement, Senator Collins said she was “troubled and surprised” by DeVos’s “lack of familiarly” with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
On the Senate floor she told her colleagues, “I come to the floor to announce a very difficult decision that I have made, and that is to vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos to be our nation’s next secretary of Education.”
Murkowski said she was opposing the pick because of the objections of constituents, saying she’d “… heard from thousands, truly thousands, of Alaskans who shared their concerns,” before finishing, “I do not intend to vote on final passage to support Ms Devos to be secretary of Education.”
Also working against DeVos is the decision of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who announced on Wednesday that he will not support her. Manchin is a a Democrat in a red state and is considered to be in a vulnerable seat. However DeVos’ answers during her hearing weren’t enough to convince him of the political benefits of voting yes.
Stay tuned to this space for more updates on the confirmation battle!