AUGUSTA, Maine — After voting in a committee to advance President Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Wednesday that she’ll oppose Betsy DeVos’ nomination, withholding a crucial Republican vote for her confirmation.
Democrats have vowed a united front against the Republican president’s nomination of DeVos, a billionaire philanthropist and school choice activist who once ran the marketing company Amway and faces questions about plagiarism in recent answers to senators’ questions.
DeVos cleared the Senate’s education committee in a 12-11 party-line vote on Tuesday, with Collins joining fellow Republicans to advance the nomination, but warning that DeVos wasn’t assured her vote.
On Wednesday, she and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said they wouldn’t vote for DeVos. If Democrats hold firm and no more Republicans join them, the nominee would face a 50-50 Senate vote with Vice President Mike Pence holding a tie-breaking vote.
On the Senate floor on Wednesday, Collins said she supports DeVos’ consideration because presidents are “entitled to considerable deference in the selection of cabinet members, regardless of which political party is in power,” but “simply cannot support her nomination.”
“I’m concerned that Mrs. DeVos’ lack of experience with public schools will make it difficult for her to fully understand, identify and assist with those challenges, particularly for our rural school in places like Maine,” Collins said.
Maine’s other U.S. senator, independent Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, already said he would vote against DeVos’ nomination, also citing concerns about the nominee’s lack of experience with public schools.
Trump chose DeVos as his nominee just a couple weeks after the election, on Nov. 23. She has advocated for the use of taxpayer funds to send students to private and religious schools. The president’s choice of DeVos doubled down on campaign statements in favor of creating a voucher system for public school funding, which Democrats have long opposed.
She also created a new controversy during the confirmation process, when she apparently lifted quotes from other sources ranging from federal law to materials prepared by the administration of former President Barack Obama, according to The Washington Post.
DeVos underwent tense questioning during her confirmation hearing with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in January and a confirmation vote in the full Senate was originally scheduled for Tuesday. But Senate Democrats have repeatedly requested the vote be delayed so they can hold additional hearings with DeVos.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Wednesday that he had “100 percent confidence” that DeVos will be confirmed, saying the “games” being played with her nomination are “sad.”
“She is someone who has been a tireless advocate over the last couple of decades to really support reforms that benefit children and they are going to be the real winners with her as secretary of education,” he said.