The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Betsy DeVos as Education secretary, needing an unprecedented tiebreaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence to push through the divisive nomination.
The Senate vote on President Donald Trump‘s choice ended in a 50-50 tie. Pence used his role to break a stalemate in a Cabinet confirmation vote for the first time ever for a vice president. Republicans hold 52 seats in the chamber, but two moderate GOP senators voted against DeVos amid a flurry of constituent complaints, forcing the move.
Democrats protested DeVos on the Senate floor through the night in a last-minute bid to mount opposition to her, following demonstrations from teachers around the country. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were the only ones in their party to oppose DeVos, and Democrats would have needed one more defector to block her nomination.
DeVos, a 59-year-old charter school advocate, philanthropist and longtime Republican donor, faced the most resistance in the Senate of all Trump’s nominees. Trump and DeVos’ supporters have hailed her as a reformist who will give students more choice in their education, but concerns about her qualifications mounted after her confirmation hearing.
Education advocates have seized on the fact that DeVos neither attended public school nor worked in education.
Trump contended Tuesday that Democrats had protested to “keep the failed status quo.”