WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s selection for education secretary, billionaire mega-donor Betsy DeVos, appears to be his most embattled Cabinet pick, but Senate Republicans have largely held tight in their support.
Senate GOP leaders are confident they can squeak DeVos through the Senate with the support of 50 Republican senators Tuesday afternoon, plus a historic tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.
But the surprise defection of two Republican senators last week — Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine — coupled with an intense lobbying effort by liberal and Democratic groups has made DeVos the first of Trump’s Cabinet picks to face serious jeopardy.
DeVos’ poor performance in her confirmation hearing — punctuated by her suggestion that a school in Wyoming might want to have guns on premises to protect from grizzly bears — contributed to roaring anger among public school supporters and teachers unions.
Senate Democrats led on cheers Monday evening by protesters at the Capitol (and around the internet) of “Just one more!” — a nod to the fact they only need to win over another Republican senator to spike DeVos’ nomination.
“We may, in fact, have an additional Republican colleague voting ‘no,’ which would stop her tomorrow,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow told CNN’s Erin Burnett “OutFront” Monday.
DeVos’ Senate vote comes after a dramatic 24 hours of protest from Democrats inside and outside the Capitol that lasted through the night, into Tuesday morning, with Democratic senators taking shifts in the Senate arguing against DeVos.
The delay tactics have succeeded in stalling many of Trump’s most important Cabinet picks — but Senate Republican leaders promised Monday to get votes for four nominees this week: DeVos, Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price, Treasury pick Steven Mnuchin and attorney general nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions.
Meanwhile, with each passing day, more questions have been raised about Trump’s Cabinet picks. Labor Department nominee Andrew Puzder admitted Monday to hiring an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper.
But Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn promised to overcome Democratic tactics with long hours at the Capitol — including the possibility of working through Saturday.
“We’ll be burning the midnight oil,” Cornyn said Monday.