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DeVos Nomination in Danger After Collins, Murkowski Defect

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 2/1/2017 Gabrielle Levy


Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska announced their opposition to President Trump's pick to be the next secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, deeply imperiling her chances of confirmation.

Speaking Wednesday on the Senate floor, Collins said she was "troubled" by DeVos' apparent unfamiliarity with 1975 federal law protecting students with disabilities, along with her lack of experience working in public education had made it impossible for her to support the nomination.

"Mrs. DeVos is the product of her experience," Collins said. "She appears to view education through the lens of promoting alternatives to public education in Detroit and other cities where she has, no doubt, done valuable work.

"Her concentration on charter schools and vouchers, however, raises the question about whether she fully appreciates that the secretary of education's primary focus must be on helping states and communities, parents, teachers, school board administrators, school board members and administrators strengthen our public schools."

Murkowski noted that DeVos' push toward the use of vouchers to help pay for private school admission could disadvantage students in small, rural communities where students don't have alternatives to their local public schools.

"I have serious concerns about a nominee to be secretary of education who has been so involved on one side of the equation, so immersed in the push for vouchers that she may be unaware of what actually is successful within the public schools and what is broken and how to fix them," Murkowski said.

She said she had been swayed by the calls from "thousands, truly thousands, of Alaskans who shared their concerns" and urged her to vote against DeVos.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who was holding his daily briefing with reporters as Collins and Murkowski spoke on the floor, said he had "zero" concerns that their defections – and the unified opposition by Democrats would sink DeVos' nomination.

A procedural vote is set for Wednesday with a final vote yet to be scheduled. Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate. If Democrats vote en masse against her and without Collins and Murkowski, Vice President Mike Pence will have to cast a tie-breaking vote for her confirmation – assuming no other Republicans defect.

"I am 100 percent confident that she will be the next secretary of education," Spicer said. "I think that the games being played with Betsy Devos are sad."

Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report

Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to be the next Secretary of Education, testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill Jan. 17, 2017 in Washington, DC.: Two Republican senators said Wednesday they would not support Betsy DeVos, President Trump's pick to be the next secretary of education. © (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Two Republican senators said Wednesday they would not support Betsy DeVos, President Trump's pick to be the next secretary of education.

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