The Senate voted 52-48 early Friday morning to advance Betsy DeVos' nomination as Education secretary, ending a Democratic filibuster and paving the path for a final vote in the upper chamber next week.
The 6:30 a.m. procedural vote to invoke cloture inches the billionaire Republican donor closer to joining President Donald Trump's cabinet. The final vote on her nomination is expected Monday or Tuesday.
DeVos endured a heated confirmation hearing last month during which she seemed unfamiliar with the specifics of several federal education policies. In one exchange with Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, DeVos said she might have been “confused” about whether equal educational access for students with disabilities is protected by federal law. She also faced questioning on her support for school choice programs and vouchers, which for decades she has made a signature policy issue.
DeVos' nomination has spurred thousands of phone calls and messages to senators in an attempt to halt her confirmation, including to Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. But a bevy of Republican senators have said they will support the nominee. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas said he had “serious concerns” about DeVos, but announced he would vote for her after they met.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 12-11 Tuesday to send DeVos' nomination to the full Senate for consideration.
Before the vote on Friday morning, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, called DeVos “one of the worst” cabinet nominees to appear before the chamber and urged his colleagues to reconsider their votes. DeVos “does not deserve to be Secretary of Education,” he said.
Senate Democrats are unanimously opposed to DeVos’ confirmation, and two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have both said they will vote against her as well next week.
But the Republicans' 52-seat majority means that without another Republican defection the Senate stands at an expected 50-50 tie, which Vice President Mike Pence is expected to break in their favor.