School choice advocate Betsy DeVos was narrowly confirmed Tuesday as the next education secretary despite deep opposition from teachers unions and other groups, after Vice President Pence intervened to cast a historic tie-breaking vote.
Pence’s vote marked the first time in American history a vice president has broken a tie on a Cabinet nominee’s Senate confirmation – and the first tie-breaking vote by a VP since 2008. Pence was compelled to cast the vote after two Republican senators – Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – joined all 48 Senate Democrats in opposing DeVos.
“The Senate being equally divided, the vice president votes in the affirmative and the nomination is confirmed,” Pence said, stepping into his role as president of the Senate in a brief appearance on Capitol Hill.
With his support, DeVos was confirmed on a 51-50 vote.
The confirmation of the wealthy GOP donor will mark a sharp change in philosophy at the helm of federal education policy, given DeVos’ history boosting alternatives to public education.
“She’s led the most effective school reform movement of the last 30 years,” Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said moments earlier on the floor, shoring up DeVos’ Republican support.
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