WASHINGTON (CN) – Party lines cleared the way Tuesday for the full Senate to vote on Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education nominee whose long history of GOP campaign donations far outstrip her experience in schools.
DeVos, whose brother Erik Prince used to head military-contractor firm Blackwater, faced a grueling confirmation hearing earlier this month before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Democrats on the committee took issue with the cabinet nominee for her promotion of charter schools and voucher programs, the latter of which use taxpayer money to fund private schools, and blasted her apparent lack of knowledge of the public school system and the Individuals With Disabilities Act, a federal law that ensures special needs children get the education they need.
A 12-11 vote Tuesday sent the billionaire nominee onto the Senate for a full vote.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaskan Republican, noted during the business meeting that thousands of her constituents are concerned about DeVos’s inexperience and whether she will uphold federal disability laws.
“They have come to my office here in Washington, in Alaska – on the phones, in petitions – and their concerns center on Mrs. DeVos’ lack of experience with public education, and the lack of knowledge that she portrayed at her confirmation hearing,” Murkowsky said.
The senator then noted that DeVos had personally assured her that she is committed to upholding federal education laws, will not impose vouchers on states, and will not erode or undermine the public school system.
Murkowsky seemed dissatisfied with that assurance, however, calling into question whether the senator will cast a vote for DeVos on the Senate floor.
“I continue to have concerns, and I think Miss DeVos has much to learn about our nation’s public schools – how they work and what challenges they face,” Murkowsky said.
Murkowsky’s committee vote could have blocked DeVos’s nomination from passing out of committee, but she said her colleagues should be able to vote on the nomination.
“In order to do that, I will show the same respect, the same deference to President Trump’s nominee as I did with President Obama’s,” she said.
“But do know that she has not yet earned my full support. And when each of us have the opportunity to vote aye or nay on the floor, I would not advise that she yet count on my vote.”
The date of the Senate vote on DeVos’ nomination is forthcoming.