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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 10, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 06
Mike Pence earns his keep

Casts deciding vote for Betsy DeVos
Section One
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Mike Pence earns his keep

Casts deciding vote for Betsy DeVos

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Vice President Mike Pence had to be called in to cast the deciding vote for Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos on February 7.

Every Democratic senator voted against her, along with two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. That made for a 50-50 split, and Pence had to be summoned to do his constitutional duty and cast the deciding vote as president of the Senate.

It was reportedly the first time a vice president has had to cast a tie-breaking vote on a cabinet nominee.

Through her husband, Dick DeVos, she is heiress to the multibillion-dollar Amway fortune. Her brother, Erik Prince, is founder of Blackwater, the company that supplied mercenaries for the US side in Iraq.

An elder of the controversial Mars Hill Church, DeVos is also a longtime funder of charter schools groups, earning her the opposition of the giant American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Education Association (NEA) unions, the ACLU, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

DeVos didn't help her nomination with a lackluster performance at her confirmation hearing. Despite Republican efforts to bolster her testimony, almost all observers found her answers shallow if not outright ignorant of education policy.

'It was the most embarrassing confirmation hearing that I have ever seen,' said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). He demanded that Republicans explain how they could still support her.

'If we cannot set aside party loyalty long enough to perform the essential duty of vetting the president's nominees, what are we even doing here?' Franken asked.

Senate Democrats held the floor for the final 24 hours before her confirmation vote, taking turns to speak out against her confirmation.

Collins and Murkowski had announced they were voting against DeVos well before the vote, but a number of Republican senators had not announced whether they would vote yes or no, giving Democrats at least a hope that their speeches could sway one more Republican to block the nomination.

In the end, however, Donald Trump got what he wanted, even though he had to send Mike Pence down to the Capitol to put DeVos over the top.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the committee whose GOP members approved DeVos, said that Democrats' efforts to block the nomination were not wasted although they were unsuccessful.

'It's made an impact here and made a difference,' she said. 'And I think it's woken each of us up in this country to what we value and what we want.'

Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a, president of the NEA, said her union would tap into the vast database of advocates it had built during the confirmation process to help keep DeVos in check.

'As soon as she does something alarming, it will be known, it will be seen,' she said. 'She won't be able to hide.'

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