Two Republican senators voted against President Donald Trump’s secretary of education nominee Betsy DeVos Tuesday, forcing Vice President Mike Pence to cast a historic vote to break the tie to confirm her.
Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, and Susan Collins, of Maine, sided with every Democrat and two Independent senators to oppose DeVos. Pence then cast the deciding vote, which marks the first time a vice president has had to break a tie regarding a cabinet nomination.
Murkowski and Collins announced their opposition to DeVos ahead of the vote on the grounds she is not qualified to be the education secretary. “I simply cannot support her confirmation,” Collins said on the Senate floor last week.
DeVos has been criticized for showing a lack of depth of knowledge of the education system in her confirmation hearings, but is primarily opposed by Democrats because of her standing as a wealthy conservative who is pro-school choice. Murkowski and Collins were accused by some conservatives of voting no because of influence from teacher’s unions in their districts who are opposed to DeVos.
Murkowski was just re-elected to another six years in the Senate, and Collins is not up for re-election until 2020.
Collins called the decision “difficult” in a statement following her vote, citing the concerns of superintendents, school teachers and other education experts in Maine, as well as a comment from DeVos showing a lack of familiarity with an education regarding kids with special needs in her confirmation hearing, as the reasons for her vote.
Murkowski said in a statement Tuesday that while she doesn’t favor DeVos, she looks forward to working with her. “We share a common goal that all children receive the best education,” she said.
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