Ohio’s U.S. senators split on Devos confirmation

Published 11:02 am Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Education secretary receives tie vote, broken by Pence; Brown votes to advance Trump VA pick

WASHINGTON — The United States Senate voted on Tuesday to confirm Betsy Devos as the country’s secretary of education.

The tie, resulting from a 50-50 vote, was broken by Vice President Mike Pence, who functions as president of the senate.

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The split was largely along party lines, with all Democrats and two independents opposing Devos’ confirmation, while two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, and Susan Collins of Maine, broke with their party to oppose.

Ohio’s Republican U.S. senator, Rob Portman, sided with his party in confirming Devos.

“Betsy DeVos is the daughter of a public school teacher, and I support her for the role of Secretary of Education because she has made clear in her response to questions that she will be a strong advocate for our kids and our public schools,” Portman said in a statement after the vote. “An important fact that has been missed in the debate over her nomination is that she strongly supports local control of education and has pledged not to impose her own views on states and local school districts, but rather to allow them – along with parents – to make the decisions that best fit the needs of their children.  She has also pledged to implement the laws as Congress intended them.“

Portman said President Donald Trump should be allowed the cabinet he chose.

“As was the case with President Obama’s nominees, I believe that presidents deserve considerable deference as they put together their team,” Portman said. “I made this point when I was one of a handful of Republicans to support Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.”

Devos’ opponents said she was unqualified for the position, following a contentious hearing, said she had no experience in public education and that her career consisted of advocating for for-profit schools and privatization.

Ohio’s Democratic U.S. senator, Sherrod Brown, voted against Devos.

In a conference call last month, Brown said Devos has used her inherited wealth, to lobby to turn public schools into for-profit private schools and stated she has “had nothing to do with public education.”

Brown also took issue with a $5.3 million fine assessed against a Devos-chaired pro charter school organization, All Children Matter, for campaign finance violations in Ohio in 2008.

He said said Devos has still not paid the fine, despite her wealth.

“She’ll be in charge of making students pay back student loans, but she has a bill she refuses to pay to the state for a law she violated,” Brown said, stating the amount would translate into the hiring of 97 teachers. “If she really cares about education, she could start there.”

Brown, who serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, voted on Tuesday to advance the nomination of David Shulkin, Trump’s pick to head the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Shulkin, who has served as under secretary of health for the VA since being nominated by President Barack Obama in 2015, will see his nomination go to the full Senate, where Brown said he intends to vote to confirm.

“I’ve worked with Dr. Shulkin to make improvements to the VA for Ohioans, and have seen his commitment to acting in the best interest of our nation’s veterans,” Brown in a statement. “I’m supporting his nomination because I trust Dr. Shulkin will work with this committee and me to do right by our veterans.