Vice President Mike Pence breaks Senate tie to confirm Betsy DeVos as US education secretary

WASHINGTON, Feb 7 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's choice of billionaire Betsy DeVos to be education secretary was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, but only after Vice President Mike Pence was called in to break a tie that threatened to defeat her.

The tie-breaking vote, which Senate officials said was unprecedented to confirm a Cabinet nominee, followed an all-night debate on DeVos as Senate Democrats tried to pressure at least one more Republican to oppose her and defeat the nomination.

SEE ALSO: Poll reveals shocking number of relationships that ended because of the 2016 election

Only two Republicans joined the 46 Democrats and two independents in opposition to DeVos. Critics have called her unprepared to lead the Department of Education after a rocky Senate confirmation hearing.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer immediately derided the proceeding.

"This cabinet nom is so unqualified, so divisive, that @MikePenceVP had to drive down Pennsylvania Ave to cast the deciding vote," he wrote in a Twitter post after the vote.



Under the U.S. Constitution, the vice president also serves as president of the Senate, with the power to cast votes only when there are ties on nominations or legislation.

Republican Trump tweeted his congratulations to the nominee and Pence praised her. "Today's vote to confirm Education Secretary @BetsyDeVos was a vote for every child having a chance at a world-class education," the vice president wrote in a Twitter post.

Ultimately, only Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined the Democrats and two independents in opposition to DeVos. That left 50 Republicans supporting her in the 100-member chamber.

Historically, Cabinet nominees with weak support in the Senate ask the president to withdraw their nomination, which DeVos did not do.


RELATED: Betsy DeVos through the years

19 PHOTOS
Betsy DeVos through the years
See Gallery
Betsy DeVos through the years
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., September 28, 2017. REUTERS/Mary Schwalm

Continuing a day of one-on-one meetings with candidates for positions in his cabinet, President-elect Donald Trump met with Betsy DeVos, two polar opposites thought to be in contention for the education portfolio.

(Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, U.S. first lady Melania Trump and Jordan?s Queen Rania speak with students and administrators at the Excel Academy public charter school in Washington, U.S., April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks before U.S. President Donald Trump signed a memorandum "Increasing Access to High-Quality Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education" in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 30: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (L), who was dressed as Ms. Frizzle from 'The Magic Schoolbus' series, and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway attend Halloween at the White House on the South Lawn October 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump gave cookies away to costumed trick-or-treaters one day before the Halloween holiday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence stand with Betsy DeVos before their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Continuing a day of one-on-one meetings with candidates for positions in his cabinet, President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence met with Betsy DeVos, two polar opposites thought to be in contention for the education portfolio.

(Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump (C, background) waits to interrupt Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as she speaks to students at a school choice event at the White House in Washington, U.S. May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Grant Hill #33 of the Los Angeles Clippers shakes hands with Owner Dick DeVos, Chairman of Amway and his wife Betsy DeVos during the game against the Orlando Magic during the game on February 6, 2013 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.

(Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

US President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush wave after they were introduced by the Chair of the Michigan Republican Party Betsy DeVos 30 October 2004 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Bush is on his final three days of campaigning prior for the election November 02.

(STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos makes remarks during a major policy address on Title IX enforcement, which in college covers sexual harassment, rape and assault, at George Mason University, in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and U.S. first lady Melania Trump are greeted by a student during a visit the Excel Academy public charter school in Washington, U.S., April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (C) and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price (R) attend a cabinet meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump, joined by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (from L), advisor Jared Kushner and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, thanks fourth-grade students Janayah Chatelier (3rd R) and Landon Fritz (R) for the "Happy Birthday Florida" card they gave him as he visits their classroom at Saint Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Florida, U.S. March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump talks to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during a meeting with teachers and parents at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (2nd R) and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) (R) arrive with President Donald Trump aboard Air Force One at Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida, U.S. March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
CAMBRIDGE, MA - SEPTEMBER 28: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks in a forum at Harvard University Kennedy School of Government on Thursday, September 28, 2017. (Photo by Katye Martens Brier for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence emerge with Betsy DeVos after their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

DeVos is married to the heir and former chief executive of Amway, which sells household and personal care items. She is also the daughter of the founders of Prince Corp, a Michigan car parts supplier, and sister of Erik Prince, the founder of the security company formerly known as Blackwater USA, now called Academi.

As Monday night's debate wound down, Schumer said of DeVos: "She disdains public education where 90 percent of our students are."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, urging her confirmation, said it was time to "end the unprecedented delay by Democrats" on the Cabinet nominations by Trump, who took office on Jan. 20.

DeVos has been an advocate of charter schools, which operate independently of school districts and frequently are run by corporations. Democrats are concerned she will promote charter schools in a way that would undercut public schools, which have long been the anchor of the U.S. education system.

Teachers unions, a major constituency for the Democratic Party, roundly opposed DeVos, a philanthropist and investor, to lead the department, which sets education policy for younger children and universities and also administers a college financial aid program of $1 trillion.

The Consumer Federation of America urged DeVos to confront the problem of millions of Americans in default on student loans. "The new secretary needs to put borrowers and taxpayers first, rather than focusing on helping the student loan and for-profit college industries pump up their profits," it said.

Following the cliffhanger vote on DeVos, the Senate promptly limited debate on Trump's choice of Senator Jeff Sessions to be attorney general. A final vote on Sessions' nomination is expected sometime this week.

Also up for Senate debate soon are Trump's nominations of Representative Tom Price to be secretary of Health and Human Services and ex-banker Steve Mnuchin to be Treasury secretary.

All three face opposition from Senate Democrats.

Also facing a rough ride is Trump's choice of Andrew Puzder to be secretary of labor. Puzder, the chief executive of CKE Restaurants Inc, has admitted to employing an undocumented immigrant as a house cleaner.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.