Betsy DeVos is one step closer to becoming the next head of the Department of Education after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) scheduled an early-morning vote Friday that turned out 52-48 in favor of advancing her nomination.
Now, lawmakers are poised to render their final verdict on DeVos’s controversial confirmation early next week. Speculation has mounted that Vice President Mike Pence will be forced to break a 50-50 tie in the Senate, which would mark the first time that a vice president cast the deciding vote on a Cabinet nomination.
Although Republicans hold a tenuous majority in the Senate, GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) have vowed to vote against DeVos, who has attracted widespread criticism for her support of charter schools and tuition vouchers.
Critics of DeVos have searched for a third Republican to persuade away from supporting her. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) had been considered a strong option, but he released a statement late Thursday announcing that he would vote in favor of her confirmation.
However, several GOP leaders have publicly backed DeVos, with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) stating Friday: “[DeVos] has spent her time working on giving children choices of schools other than public schools. It’s always puzzled me as to why anybody would criticize that.”
Democrats decided in 2013 to lower the threshold for Cabinet and lower court positions to a simple majority vote; if they hadn’t, it is likely that neither DeVos nor Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would have garnered enough congressional support to secure confirmation.