Despite a Republican majority in the Senate, Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, may be in trouble with two GOP Senators now saying they will vote “no” on DeVos’ nomination. The GOP holds 52 senate seats to the Democrats’ 48, which means that if all Democrats vote against her — as former vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) claims they will — only three Republican senators need to reject her nomination to block DeVos as head of the Education Department. The two GOP senators who declared they will vote against DeVos are Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), according to The Washington Post.
DeVos Raises Concerns During Education Department Confirmation Hearings
DeVos, who comes from a family of billionaire donors to the GOP, recently found herself at the center of a difficult confirmation hearing highlighting her lack of supervisory experience in the educational system as well as a history of never attending any public schools herself or having children in the public school system. When grilled by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota), she demonstrated her lack of knowledge on the definitions of basic standards used to measure progress in the school system. DeVos didn’t understand the difference between “growth” and “proficiency” and had to have Franken clarify their meaning to answer the question.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) blasted DeVos for her lack of experience handling billion and trillion dollar budgets before pointing out her lack of experience on a firsthand level with student loans and Pell grants. Then Warren refused to let DeVos dodge answering her question about enforcing the regulations in place to prevent career colleges who engage in fraud from receiving federal funding. Warren pointed out those regulations applied directly to the recent fraud lawsuit against Trump University where President Trump settled the case for $25 million. DeVos would only commit to “reviewing” those regulations.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) grilled DeVos on the hundreds of thousands of dollars her family has contributed to Republicans before asking her point blank if she thought she would have been nominated for Secretary of Education without those donations. However, the most viral moment of DeVos’ confirmation hearings came in regard to questions about guns in schools. DeVos gave her standard answer that the state should be left to decide those regulations, but when pressed, she noted that schools in Wyoming may need guns to protect students from grizzly bears.
GOP Senators Getting A Wake-Up Call From Newly Engaged Voters
The announcement that Collins and Murkowski would vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education represents two of at least three Republican votes needed to deny Trump’s nominee. For the last few days, a meme has been circulating around Facebook calling for residents of certain key states to call and contact their senators about the DeVos nomination. Among those on the list of eleven senators targeted for phone calls were Collins and Murkowski. Collins released a statement about her decision.
“[DeVos] appears to view education through the lens of her experience of promoting alternatives to public education in Detroit and other cities where she has no doubt done valuable work. I’m concerned that Mrs. DeVos’s lack of experience with public schools will make it difficult for her to fully understand, identify and assist with those challenges, particularly for our rural schools in states like Maine.”
Murkowski also expressed concerns about having a strong education leader to support rural schools, noting that while she had done her own research, she received a considerable amount of input from her constituents before coming to her decision.
“I was trying to get to yes. I just couldn’t.”
After careful consideration, and hearing from Alaskans, I will vote against Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education: https://t.co/u7sNCPUH3d.
— Sen. Lisa Murkowski (@lisamurkowski) February 1, 2017
Will More GOP Senators Vote Against Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education?
DeVos barely made it past the Senate committee vote to move forward in the process, according to CNN. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions voted two times to proceed with her nomination with a 12-11 vote along party lines, despite finding herself in the hot seat for allegedly plagiarizing part of one of her responses to questions. While DeVos had unanimous support for the Senate committee hearing, some of the GOP senators made it clear their vote to confirm at that level wouldn’t guarantee a final vote for her confirmation, including Murkowski.
DeVos is currently under fire for allegedly plagiarizing a press release in response to written questions regarding her nomination for heading the Department of Education. In response to one of the questions Democrats submitted to the nominee, DeVos’s written response was that “Every child deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive environment where they can learn, thrive, and grow.”
The quote very closely parallels a press release statement by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of Obama’s Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department.
“Every child deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive environment that allows them to thrive and grow.”
No other GOP senators have confirmed they will vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education at this time.
[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]