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The Senate Just Approved Betsy DeVos to Lead the Education Department

Vice President Mike Pence had to cast the tie-breaking vote—a first for a Cabinet secretary confirmation.
February 7, 2017, 5:47pm

As expected, the Senate reached a 50–50 tied vote on confirming Betsy DeVos, a billionaire conservative donor and charter school advocate, to become the Trump administration's education secretary. Vice President Mike Pence had to cast a tie-breaking vote, bringing it to 51–50 in favor of approving DeVos, signaling the end to one of the more contentious fights over one of Trump's Cabinet appointees, Politico reports.

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Democrats pulled an all-nighter Monday to filibuster for a full 24 hours on the Senate floor in an attempt to pressure Republicans to vote against DeVos. Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkoswki of Alaska had already agreed to vote against her, bringing the vote to a tie. The Democrats proved unable to secure one more member from across the aisle to vote against DeVos, and Pence had to vote to break the tie—a historic first for a Cabinet secretary confirmation.

As a conservative donor, DeVos and her family have given millions to Senate Republicans, though she's raised questions on both sides of the aisle as to her competency for the nation's top education job. DeVos has been outspoken about allocating taxpayer dollars to private schools, as opposed to public schools. She also has relatively little experience working on matters regarding higher education or in handling LGBTQ issues at schools.

After her sloppy confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions—in which DeVos said guns belong in schools so people can protect themselves from "grizzlies"—senators received thousands of calls from concerned constituents and teachers' groups urging them to vote against her. So much so, the phone lines were reportedly jammed.

This post has been updated to include the result of the Senate vote.