Two Republicans Defect on DeVos Nomination

WASHINGTON (CN) – Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said Wednesday they would vote against President Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos for education secretary.

If a third Republican senator defects, it would block her confirmation.

Although Murkowski helped move the DeVos nomination out of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to a full Senate vote on Tuesday, she indicated that constituents had flooded her offices with concerns about the cabinet nominee’s lack of experience.

DeVos, whose brother Erik Prince used to head military-contractor firm Blackwater, faced a grueling confirmation hearing two weeks ago with tough questions from Democrats about her promotion of charter schools, which use taxpayer money to fund private schools.

DeVos has no public school experience, and neither she nor her children have attended public schools. During her confirmation hearing, she revealed that she was unaware of the Individuals With Disabilities Act, a federal law that ensures special needs children get the education they need.

The outpouring from constituents concerned about these factors played a big role in Murkowski’s decision to vote no, she said Wednesday.

Collins reportedly said on the Senate floor Wednesday, “I simply cannot support her confirmation.”

On Wednesday afternoon, DeVos cleared a procedural hurdle when the Senate voted 50-47 to advance her nomination.

If all 48 Democratic senators vote no on her confirmation, it would create a 50-50 tie. In that case, Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote, which would lead to her confirmation.

Several senators, including Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., are facing constituent pressure to vote no, though he has indicated that he will support DeVos’ nomination.