In a last-minute bid to halt Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as secretary of education, Senate Democrats said Monday they would debate on the chamber floor overnight to convince one more Republican senator to vote against her confirmation Tuesday.
DeVos, a billionaire donor to the Republican Party, stands to be confirmed narrowly by the Senate tomorrow afternoon, with a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence, if no other Republican senators decide to fight her confirmation. As of Monday, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska had already said they would vote against her, along with the 48 senators who caucus with the Democrats.
Democrats need only one more Republican defector to defeat DeVos’ confirmation.
DeVos’ nomination has been one of the most contested among Trump’s unconventional Cabinet selections, in part because of her decades-long support for school choice programs and vouchers, her signature educational issue. In a heated confirmation hearing last month, DeVos struggled to describe several federal education policies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Under questioning, she admitted she might have been “confused” about whether equal educational access for students with disabilities is protected by federal law.
DeVos’ nomination has also drawn thousands of phone calls and letters to more moderate Republicans or those in more vulnerable seats, including Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. But aside from Murkowski and Collins, no other Republican senator has expressed a willingness to vote against President Donald Trump’s nominee.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said Monday afternoon after the Senate came into session that Democrats planned to hold the Senate floor until noon Tuesday, when the confirmation vote is expected to be held.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., added she would “strongly encourage people across the country to join us — to double down on your advocacy — and to keep making your voices heard for these last 24 hours” in remarks prepared for delivery on the Senate floor.
The Democrats’ move to spend the night in the Senate chamber is distinct from a filibuster, which would extend the amount of time a nomination is considered. A filibuster attempt was already defeated early Friday morning when the Senate voted 52-48 to move forward with DeVos’ final vote.
According to the Associated Press, the Democrats plan to continue occupying the Senate floor throughout the week to delay additional votes for attorney general and Treasury secretary, among other posts.