Senate Committee Approves DeVos for Education Secretary

Leah Barkoukis
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Posted: Jan 31, 2017 12:20 PM
Senate Committee Approves DeVos for Education Secretary

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions approved Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary Tuesday morning, advancing her nomination to the full Senate for a final confirmation vote.

DeVos, one of President Trump’s more controversial Cabinet picks, was confirmed along party lines, 12-11.

Democrats have hammered the Michigan billionaire for her lack of experience in public education, her activism for school choice, especially voucher programs, and failing to adequately answer their questions about potential conflicts of interests concerning her investments. They even wanted a second hearing to continue questioning her about her financial holdings, but Chairman Lamar Alexander, himself a former education secretary, rejected that request. He even noted that DeVos has been the most questioned education secretary nominee in history.

“Democrats desperately are searching for a valid reason to oppose Betsy DeVos for U.S. education secretary because they don’t want Americans to know the real reason for their opposition,” he wrote in a Medium post.

“That real reason? She has spent more than three decades helping children from low-income families choose a better school. Specifically, Democrats resent her support for allowing tax dollars to follow children to school their low-income parents choose, although wealthy families choose their children’s schools every day.”

DeVos has signed an agreement with the Office of Government Ethics stating her intention to divest from 102 companies and holdings that pose potential conflicts of interest within 90 days.

While Republicans were largely supportive of DeVos, two GOP senators—Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska—said they haven’t yet decided how they will vote on the floor.  The former raised concerns about DeVos’ lack of familiarity with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, while the latter was concerned the nominee doesn’t understand issues rural school districts face, like those in Alaska.

"I would not advise that she yet count on my vote," Murkowski said.

Still, DeVos only needs a simple majority vote in the Senate to be confirmed.

Update: There was a debate over whether Sen. Orrin Hatch could vote by proxy. But after a bit of drama, as New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor noted, the end result is the same.