Despite the Democrats’ all-night sit-in Monday to protest Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Education, the vote to confirm the billionaire and GOP mega-donor passed the Senate Tuesday with Vice President Mike Pence casting the deciding 51-50 vote.
With charter schools and religious education as DeVos' top priorities at the expense of public education, Democrats have questioned her commitment to the majority of the nation’s school children — as well as her qualifications.
During her confirmation process, DeVos struggled to answer even the most basic questions about education, such as one about growth and proficiency, a central concept in education management. In another incident that caused outrage, she said firearms should be allowed in schools, lest there be attacks on rural students by bears.
Many Democrats spoke throughout the sit-in Monday night, attempting to convince Republican senators to oppose DeVos.
"Mrs. DeVos demonstrated a complete lack of experience in, knowledge of and support for public education. She was unable to address basic issues that any New Hampshire school board member could discuss fluently," declared Senator Maggie Hassan, who advocates for the importance of public schools, given that her son, who has cerebral palsy, was able to access public education through a federal law that guarantees access for disabled students.
As a result, two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have decided not to vote for her, leaving the most likely outcome of Tuesday’s ballot to be a 50-50 tie. That in turn, will lead to Vice President Mike Pence needing to invoke his powers as president of the Senate, and cast a tie-breaking vote in a Cabinet confirmation for the first time in history.
All throughout Monday, protesters rallied outside the Capitol, while many others jammed senators’ phone lines, demonstrating against DeVos’ confirmation.