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DeVos confirmed as Education secretary as Pence breaks tie

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    Vice President Mike Pence presided over the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, today, during the Senate’s vote on Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos. The Senate confirmed DeVos with Pence breaking a 50-50 tie.


    Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos testified on Capitol Hill, on Jan. 17, in Washington at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The Senate was poised today, to confirm Devos by the narrowest possible margin, with Vice President Mike Pence expected to break a 50-50 tie, despite a last-ditch effort by Democrats to sink the nomination.

WASHINGTON >> The Senate today confirmed school choice advocate Betsy DeVos as Education secretary by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in a historic vote.

Two Republicans joined Democrats in the unsuccessful effort to derail the nomination of the wealthy Republican donor. The Senate historian said Pence’s vote was the first by a vice president to break a tie on a Cabinet nomination.

Democrats cited her lack of public school experience and financial interests in organizations pushing charter schools. DeVos has said she would divest herself from those organizations.

Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska fear that DeVos’ focus on charter schools will undermine remote public schools in their states.

Despite the win, DeVos emerges bruised from the highly divisive nomination process. She has faced criticism, even ridicule for her stumbles and confusion during her confirmation hearing and scathing criticism from teachers unions and civil rights activists over her support of charter schools and her conservative religious beliefs.

But President Donald Trump remained uncompromising and accused Democrats of seeking to torpedo education progress. In a tweet before the vote, he wrote: “Betsy DeVos is a reformer, and she is going to be a great Education Sec. for our kids!”

After an all-night speaking marathon by Democrats, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, the top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee urged her Republican colleagues to vote against DeVos, calling her unqualified and saying that she will be a poor advocate for low-income families and students with disabilities who rely on public education.

“We are just within one vote of sending this nomination back and asking the president to send us a nominee that can be supported by members on both sides of the aisle, that can set a vision that can fight for public schools, that can be that champion,” Murray said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said DeVos will seek to empower states, not federal bureaucrats, to make important education decisions.

“I know that she is committed to improving our education system so that every child — every child — has a brighter future,” McConnell said ahead of the vote.

Emotions ran high ahead of the vote as constituents jammed senators’ phone lines with calls and protesters gathered outside the Capitol, including one person in a grizzly bear costume to ridicule DeVos’ comment during her confirmation hearing that some schools might want guns to protect against grizzlies. Her opponents also charge that DeVos has no experience to run public schools, having never attended one or sent her children to a public school.

DeVos has provided few details about her policy agenda, but she is sure to have a busy job. She will have to weigh in on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act and possibly undo some of the previous administration’s regulation initiatives on school accountability and spending, which have been criticized by Republicans as federal overreach. Rules on such things as accountability already have been on hold.

She will have to address several hot-button issues in higher education, such as rising tuition costs, growing student debt and the troubled for-profit colleges, many of which have closed down, leaving students with huge loans and without a good education or job prospects. Observers will pay close attention to how DeVos deals with sexual assault and freedom of speech on campuses.

DeVos will also have to react to Trump’s campaign proposal of funneling $20 billion of public funds toward school vouchers.

In addition to DeVos, Republicans hope to confirm a series of other divisive nominees this week: Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, GOP Rep. Tom Price of Georgia as health secretary and financier Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary.

In each case, Democrats intend to use the maximum time allowed under the Senate’s arcane rules to debate the nominations, which may result in late-night votes this week and delay Mnuchin’s approval until Saturday.

Republicans complain that previous presidents have been able to put their Cabinets in place more quickly. Democrats say it’s Trump’s fault because many of his nominees have complicated financial arrangements and ethical entanglements they claim they have not had enough time to dissect. Thus far, six Cabinet and high-level officials have been confirmed, including the secretaries of state, defense, homeland security and transportation.

The clash over nominees has created a toxic atmosphere in the Senate that mirrors the tense national mood since Trump’s election, with Democrats boycotting committee votes and Republicans unilaterally jamming nominees through committee without Democrats present. Yet there’s little suspense about the final outcome on any of the nominees because Democrats themselves changed Senate rules when they were in the majority several years ago so that Cabinet nominees can now be approved with a simple majority, not the 60 votes previously required.

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    • No surprise here. Sadly, she does not understand public education, early education, the needs of low-income families, the needs of middle-class families, special education students or publicly supported charter schools such as we have in Hawaii. Just a horrible cabinet choice.

      • In other words, absolutely and totally unqualified; just like her boss. Well folks, gather around, the show has begun. Step right up and get your tickets.

      • It takes someone who understands the failure of public education to fix the problems that the Teacher’s Union will not accept as part of their own fault. We spend the most amount of money per student worldwide and are ranked #14 in the world. I think that says all you need to know. The fight against DeVos was led by the teacher’s union because she knows where to start in fixing the problem. Instead of indoctrination, teacher’s need to teach.

        • The Catholic church will love this appointment. Big dollars will be going from public education to private schools which will be a big loss to our school system.

        • she will close the doe and common core and the over one trillion dollars they oversee, move the education back to the state, where it belongs, establish charter schools which will be more successful than the current public school with ineffective teachers. this in effect will ruin the unions, lay off the union teachers, and overall improve the education system. improvement long needed

  • Well this is just perfect. I watched every minute of the DeVos hearings, and it’s clear that Ms. DeVos knows absolutely nothing about public education. She was totally unaware of any of the accepted terms and tools used to measure student progress and success. Totally, and absolutely ignorant of the things an Education Secretary needs to know.

    This follows the Trump “Rick Perry Standard” of hiring the least prepared, least informed candidate possible for a job.

    Mr. Trump is a psychotic.

    • IRT Klastri, no, it just that Ms DeVos does not fit your pattern (cut out) of the Secretary of Education. Ms Betsy DeVos fits mine perfect and I am pleased that she was confirmed, even with the vote of Senate President Pence. The Democrats lost their mojo and can’t stop any of President Trumps appointments and nominees. The only stop the Democrats have in their pocket is a liberal Republican. It will be a tough two or four years.

      • kurowaj – Not a surprise that you are happy with a completely unprepared and unqualified choice. Trump can do no wrong for you, even though he is remarkably mentally ill.

        Trump is a complete disaster. Hopefully, he’ll be out of office before too long.

        • Another BIG win for President Trump. Crickets just can’t stop chirping. Eight great years ahead. Build the wall.

        • and you would want hillary that felon that should have been convicted and sent to prison as your choice for Prez. gimme a break!! just because hillary lost the election you libtard whiners can’t ….just can’t get over it. ‘cry me a river” you crybaby.

      • What pattern? If your pattern is total ignorance of the place of and programs in public education, if your pattern is taking money away from public schools and giving it to private schools then you are part of the problem that will lead our country to ruin. School vouchers do not provide choice. Do you think any kid from Papakolea or Waianae who shows up at the doorstep of Punahou will be accepted unless he is an athletic standout? Of course not. Vouchers only benefit families already sending their kids to private schools at the expense of public school kids. If you believe that no experience is a good thing then why not just hire someone from the sidewalk in Iwilei?

        • IRT Tanuki, you are out of line and had better review your “Fake News” and “Talking Points” for they are wrong. I had no experience with combat in Vietnam and learn quickly in order to make certain my 27 men in my command when home alive and unhurt. I bet you have been in situations that began without any experience. Or, maybe you neva do anything productive. Education is the parents and State responsibility, never ever the Federal Government. I continue to believe that the U.S. Department of Education must repealed and made into an office of education in the Dept. of Human Services, as it was under President Carter.

    • Wrong, Klastri, she is the perfect fit and it does not matter if she knows anything about public education. I believe her mission is to dismantle the Department of Education and return the responsibility for education to the states where it belongs under the Constitution.

  • The Dems want to leave everything status quo although under Obama the inner city schools stayed slums and more minorities never had a chance to graduate from high school. Trump wants someone in there that won’t kiss up to the unions and shake things up for the better. The Dems make believe that everything with the education system under Obama is just great..what a crock!

    • What is Trump’s “plan” for shaking things up?

      Education is generally subject to local / parent control, so are you asking for a federal takeover of the nation’s public education system? If not, what exactly are you asking for? Do you know?

      • If you were “Paying Attention” to President Trump’s Campaign speeches, he mentions “Giving Schools at the local level more power”. Right ? Did you know?……..”Reading Is Fundamental”?
        Wow Klastri! Is that a New Leaf you’re turning, agreeing with our POTUS?
        Amazing,but let me be the first to welcome you into our fold.Finally.

        • I know what Trump said, but apparently Trump doesn’t. Ms. DeVos wants central control using her ridiculous system of vouchers.

          A terrible candidate who will be a terrible Secretary.

        • Yes education should be subject to local/parent control. The “ridiculous system of vouchers” as characterized by klastri is the ultimate vehicle for parent control as it gives parents the financial assistance to choose which schools their children attend but do not have access to now because of their lack of financial means. klastri is in favor of parent control but not parent choice. How ironic.

      • Klastri, If you ask a stupid question, you’ll get a stupid answer. “How will Trump shake things up?”
        He just did, or, don’t you see what you’re arguing about?

  • We should clean our own houses first before throwing stones. We have so many incompetent D legislators including in congress it is not funny anymore. Good grief!

  • Somewhere in a state capital far away, a state legislature is voting on whether to participate in the Constitutional Convention to change the US Constitution via Article V Convention of States for the first time in almost two centuries. If I read correctly, 28 states have signed up and they just need 6 more to have this Con-Con. There is a risk of a “runaway” Convention that changes America forever. Where is the national media coverage? This issue of changing the Constitution would garner bi-partisan (Republicans and Democrats) against this risky endevour.

    I believe this Con-Con, Brexit, Calexit, the coming EU break-up, foreign influence, are somehow correlated, maybe even choreographed, to weaken the United States. Who in their right mind wants to open up the Constitution for editing in this political environment, other than to usurp power and tear the fabric of our country apart? Where is the media coverage?

  • Stall! Oppose and Obstruct is the Democrat way…… With all the lunacy and Scare Tactics that goes on with the democratic party,they got this one thing going for them. No matter how dire or “futile” their situation is, they always manage to “Stick Together”! In this Education Sec. vote for Ms DaVos? I”m more concerned with the Republicans “Turning Coat”! Watch! How many Repubs will Fold!

    Yes they have a lot to learn from the Democrats,even though they rule both Houses. They too, need to learn to……… “Stick Together”.IMUA!

  • What an appalling group of nominees. Rep Price has repeatedly used his insider knowledge of pending legislation to profit from insider trading, something that in any previous administration, Democrat or Republican, would have ended consideration of his nomination in a normal vetting process. Mnuchin made his fortune running a predatory bank that contributed to the housing crisis. The Labor nominee employed undocumented domestic help, something that has derailed past nominees, but in the Trump administration ethics are not a concern. Trump is filling the swamp with alligators.

  • An heiress to Amway fortune? Born into a billonaire’s family? What are her qualifications other than being born wealthy and marrying rich and having enough money to pursue her pet “causes”? An appointee who has little idea or background to understand people like me and my family. I was the first in my father’s family able to attend college – not because I was more capable but because my Dad and Uncles and Aunt had to work. Several worked from before high school – which they were unable to attend. Not enough money to stay in school. As always – just for the trolls out there – I did not vote for the clowns on both sides running for POTUS. YMMV

  • At least Pence will have his name forever linked closely to DeVos. I hope he realizes that he not only made history, but that his vote to confirm her as Sec. of Education is probably the only thing he’ll be remembered for by posterity.

    He may as well have his tombstone chiseled now.

  • democrats were completely unprepared to stop even the least qualified cabinet nominee from being confirmed and seated as secretary of education. gorsuch seems a shoe-in if this is the best democrats can do against the weakest of all triumph cabinet nominee.

    sad to see democrats still projecting their psychotic/neurotic shortcomings onto triumph in an effort to validate their self inflicted disabilities.

        • @ sarge22
          I have the same feeling everyday since Nov. 8, 2016. What a great LANDSLIDE WIN!!!
          on the the flip side I look at the Dems, who are in complete & total disarray, and they still trying to figure out if they want to go the keith ellison muslim way or the pelosi brainless way….SAD.

    • What an inane comment. So religious people who pay taxes just like everyone else to fund education and every other government function are not entitled to receive taxpayer dollars to send their kids to religious schools. In other words their taxes can fund the educational choice of others but not their own choice. How ridiculous.

  • I love it, politicians already in office, worried about the public school system failing when someone else takes office, when they have already let it fail themselves. Nothing but hubris here.

  • So if your family gives more than $200,000,000 to Republican politicians, you can be a Cabinet Secretary in the Trump administration, even if you have no qualifications, no knowledge, and you are committed to destroying the department you’re going to lead.

  • If the past administration truly cared about the Country we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. For the last eight years we had a do nothing government an it was business as usual so to them President Trumps agenda seems so Radical, if they just put their hatred behind them and take a step back they would see that his agenda is quite normal. Their is nothing wrong with putting the Country and the people first so why is it so wrong to allow every child a chance to a good education. The Democratic party and its left wing radical supporters only care about one thing, their personal agenda and getting back at the Man who took out their Candidate.

  • During the deliberation phase the VP predicted that he would cast the final vote. Perhaps the only way local control of education can be restored is through the “charter” school system and certainly the new Secretary has wide experience in them since she and her children all attended private schools. Charter school a poor man’s private school. Our current educational system controlled from the top certainly has a poor record of educating our children. Rankings on a global scale indicate our students are not as competitive as other nations.

  • “Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, the top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee urged her Republican colleagues to vote against DeVos, calling her unqualified and saying that she will be a poor advocate for low-income families and students with disabilities who rely on public education.”

    You can not generalize students with disabilities. I was a student with a disability (pro and the public schools here were not an option for me. In fact, in middle school, the counselors told my parents that they would not help me because the other kids would make fun of me and it would be unfair to my well-being. (What??) So, I was homeschooled until we found a private school that I liked. If DeVos is wanting to make private/charter schools more affordable and available for those intelligent kids who happen to be members of low-income families, then yes, let’s do it.

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