On Tuesday Betsy DeVos was confirmed and will serve as U.S. Secretary of Education. The voting came down to a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.
After the Senate split 50-50, which was the predicted outcome, Mike Pence had the final say if DeVos goes through or not. This was the first time in the nation’s history that a vice president had to cast a tiebreaker for a cabinet nominee.
Every Democrat in the Senate casted their votes against DeVos, while having two Republicans on their side, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Democrats spent all night trying to convince one more Republican to switch their vote.
Democrats have argued that she is unqualified to be secretary of education, after a confirmation hearing in which DeVos was grilled on several issues. She often dodged questions saying she was unable to give a response and often raise doubts on the answers she gave. When asked about guns in school she said they would be important to “protect from potential grizzlies.”
The president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Randi Weingarten, expressed her concern for the confirmation of DeVos, saying it is a “sad day for children.”
“If she wants to work with the educators who work hard every single day—in districts as diverse as McDowell County, W.Va., Detroit, and Scarsdale, N.Y.—to provide children the opportunities they deserve, we renew our invitation to have her visit America’s public schools and see the strategies that work for kids,” Weingarten said in a statement after the vote.
“But it’s more likely we’ll now hear the same trashing of public schools that the disrupters, the privatizers and the austerity hawks have used for the last two decades. That makes this a sad day for children.”
Weingarten said Tuesday that the bright side of all this is that the public has become more vocal about education and will serve as “a check and balance.”
“DeVos’ confirmation battle has a major silver lining: The public in public education has never been more visible or more vocal, and it is not going back in the shadows,” Weingarten said.
“This same public—from rural towns to urban centers, from liberals to conservatives—will now serve as a check and balance, and they will be fierce fighters on behalf of children.”