Even after Senate Democrats protested for hours well into the night, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Trump's Secretary of Education after a tie vote on Tuesday. The tie vote was decided by Vice President Mike Pence, in the first time a U.S. vice president has ever had to use his power to break a tie in the Senate. The vote to confirm DeVos fell largely along party lines, except for two Republicans — Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Maine Sen. Susan Collins — who voted against DeVos as education secretary.
DeVos — a billionaire from Michigan with family ties to companies such as Amway and Blackwater — has made history with her confirmation as Trump's Cabinet pick for education: She has no direct experience in American public education. DeVos has been an outspoken advocate of private charter schools and school choice. Astonishingly, DeVos's children never attended public schools — and neither has DeVos herself — and yet she has just been confirmed as the leader of education in America.
50.4 million of the nation's children are enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The NCES also reported that as of fall 2016, only 5.2 million additional school children were enrolled in private education, representing just 10 percent of the number of children enrolled in American public schools.
DeVos' appointment as secretary of education had been met with resistance from teachers' unions and education advocates, who cited the 59-year-old billionaire's complete lack of experience in public education. Responding to overwhelming constituent concern, Senate Democrats held the floor overnight in one last Hail Mary to persuade their Republican counterparts to vote against confirming DeVos. Unfortunately, the Democrats' efforts were in vain as they failed to persuade a third Republican senator to flip their vote, which required Vice President Pence to break the tie vote.
As frustrating as this loss was for Democrats, they're having to bear the weight of a burden they placed on themselves during Obama's time in office, in an effort to circumvent the GOP blocking Obama's nominees to lower federal courts. In 2013, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid changed Senate rules for executive appointments to allow confirmations by a simple majority instead of a two-thirds "super" majority. And that's exactly how DeVos was confirmed as education secretary on Tuesday, in a 51-50 vote.
While DeVos has been praised by former First Lady Barbara Bush as "an educator at heart," Sen. Al Franken from Minnesota blasted DeVos in a statement Tuesday, saying she is "the most incompetent cabinet-level nominee" he'd ever seen.
The White House has not yet announced when DeVos will be officially sworn in as education secretary.