Senate confirms DeVos as education secretary after tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence

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Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to be the next Secretary of Education, testifies during her confirmation hearing on January 17 (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – As expected Tuesday, the U.S. Senate was deadlocked in the confirmation vote for Betsy DeVos as education secretary, prompting Vice President Mike Pence to use his vote to break the tie and pave the way for DeVos to take office.

President Donald Trump’s selection for education secretary appeared to be his most embattled Cabinet pick, but Senate Republicans have largely held tight in their support.

Senate GOP leaders were confident they could get DeVos through the Senate with the support of 50 Republican senators Tuesday afternoon, plus a historic tie-breaking vote from Pence.

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. Even before her hearing, critics pointed to DeVos lack of experience with public schools and bankrolling efforts to support opposing ideas like school vouchers.

Trump tweeted his support for his nominee Tuesday: “Senate Dems protest to keep the failed status quo. Betsy DeVos is a reformer, and she is going to be a great Education Sec. for our kids!”

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.

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.

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