President Donald Trump’s choice of Michigan philanthropist Betsy DeVos to head the U.S. Department of Education has ignited an outpouring of grass-roots opposition, the likes of which Washington state Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have rarely seen.
As of Friday, Cantwell had received roughly 27,500 calls opposing DeVos.
If not an all-time high, it would be very close.
Bryan Watt, spokesman for Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
“If not an all-time high, it would be very close,” said Bryan Watt, Cantwell’s spokesman.
27,500 The number of phone calls received by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., opposing Betsy DeVos
And Kerry Arndt, Murray’s spokeswoman, said Murray had already heard from roughly 57,500 people in Washington state who oppose DeVos – 40,000 in writing and 17,500 by telephone.
She said the high volume was “certainly outpacing anything we’ve seen in recent years.”
57,500 The number of phone calls and letters received by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., opposing Betsy DeVos
The Senate is expected to vote early next week on whether to give the job to DeVos, a billionaire and conservative activist. On Friday, senators voted 52-48 along party lines to end debate on her nomination, setting the stage for the final vote Monday or Tuesday.
It promises to be close, with two Republicans – Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine – ready to vote against DeVos. If all the other Republicans hold firm in backing Trump’s nominee, there would be a 50-50 tie, forcing Vice President Mike Pence to cast the deciding vote.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Murray said it was obvious that DeVos had touched a nerve.
“It’s clear that people across the country care so deeply about education and are so passionate about making sure that we have strong public schools that seeing President Trump nominate someone like Betsy DeVos to run this department just hits very close to home and is so deeply offensive to them,” Murray said.
As the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Murray has led the opposition against DeVos.
She sought to delay a vote, asking for a second hearing to give senators more time to examine DeVos’ “tangled finances” and whether the nominee had any potential conflicts of interest as a result of her investments.
Murray also objected to DeVos’ lack of experience and said the nominee had lacked an understanding of basic education issues when she appeared before the committee.
“She has no experience with public schools, except through her work trying to tear them down,” Murray said.
She has no experience with public schools, except through her work trying to tear them down.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Cantwell said DeVos displayed “a lack of understanding for federal disability laws” involving education.
“We need a secretary of education who will move public education forward,” she said.
Republicans have defended DeVos, saying the president deserves to have his own team in place.
Before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 12-11 on Tuesday to approve DeVos, GOP Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina accused Murray and other Democrats of engaging in “character assassination.”
“Let’s give her a little bit of credit,” Burr said.