The Senate narrowly confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary on Tuesday, with Vice President Pence casting a historic tiebreaking vote after senators deadlocked over her fitness for the job.
The entire Democratic caucus of 48 senators voted against DeVos, as did two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, who said they did not think that DeVos was qualified for the job. The remaining 50 Republicans voted for DeVos, setting up a 50-50 tie that Pence broke with his vote at about 12:30 p.m.
It marked the first time that a vice president’s tiebreaking vote was needed to confirm a Cabinet secretary, according to Daniel Holt, an assistant historian in the Senate Historical Office.
And it was the first time a vice president cast any tiebreaking vote in the Senate since Richard B. Cheney did so nine years ago.
The confirmation vote came after dozens of Democrats took to the Senate floor to speak out against DeVos for most of the day Monday and through the night into Tuesday, a 24-hour last-ditch effort to persuade one more Republican to break party ranks and derail the confirmation. They argued that she doesn’t understand or believe in public schools and that she is not committed to enforcing civil rights laws related to education, and should therefore be disqualified from leading the Education Department.
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