Betsy DeVos, Secretary Of Education Pick, Opposed By Two Republican Senators

President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, became in danger on Wednesday of being voted down in her upcoming Senate confirmation. "I couldn't", said Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who moments of earlier joined Susan Collins of Maine in telling their colleagues on the Senate floor that they would vote no on DeVos' nomination.

Sens. Susan Collins of ME and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska announced in floor speeches that they would not support DeVos, a charter school advocate and supporter of school vouchers.

Collins said she respects DeVos and believes her commitment to children is honest, but was concerned her background would prohibit her from understanding the issues facing public schools. Jeff Sessions, who is also awaiting confirmation to be Trump's attorney general.

"Her concentration on charter schools and vouchers however raised the question about whether or not she fully appreciates that the security of education's primary focus must be on helping states and communities... strengthen our public schools", Collins said.

DeVos advanced to the full senate by a one-vote margin. Also, more than 1,000 Calvin College alumni and students recently signed a letter stating why they think their fellow alumna DeVos isn't qualified to be Secretary of Education. If all other Republican senators support DeVos, Vice President Mike Pence, one of DeVos's biggest advocates, would break the tie.

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U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey has been unreachable by telephone, as voters sought to sway his vote on confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary, according to a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Trump chose DeVos as his nominee just a couple weeks after the election, on November 23.

DeVos - a Republican megadonor, philanthropist and eager patron of charter schools - was criticized for her performance before the Senate health, education, labor and pensions committee last month. In addition, DeVos helped fund and run the American Federation for Children (AFC), a special interest group that supports taking funds from public education to support less accountable private voucher schools. Should the Alabama Republican be confirmed before DeVos, he would resign from his seat, and would not be able to vote for her. Committee Democrats on Tuesday had boycotted the vote, forcing Republicans to scrap a requirement that at least one Democrat be present for a vote. DeVos is a big-time advocate for vouchers and other forms of choice.

The board includes fellow high-ranking Republicans Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. secretary of state, and Eric Cantor, the former U.S. House majority leader.

Manchin's news release came about an hour after the end of a conference call with West Virginia reporters that sought to urge him to support DeVos.

  • Alfonso Moody