Senate Democrats don’t appear to have the votes to block President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, but they are trying to draw attention to the vote by holding the floor of the U.S. Senate for a 24-hour period.
Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado took the podium around 6:30 p.m. mountain time. He said he had no doubt that DeVos cares personally for the fates of children and that it is not her fault that Trump nominated her. He said his comments were directed at the president before he went on to call her nomination “an insult to schoolchildren and their families, to teachers and principals, and to communities fighting to improve their public schools all across this country.”
He said DeVos “lacks the experience and the understanding to be an effective Secretary of Education” and that her commitment to school choice did not include a commitment to quality education for all students.
“Ms. DeVos has shown no evidence of her commitment to be the torchbearer for both excellence and equity,” he said. “… A commitment to choice without a commitment to quality serves ideology rather than improvement, and a commitment to competition without a commitment to equity would forsake our democratic ideal that a free, high-quality public education must open the doors of opportunity for all.”
DeVos has used her personal wealth to promote school choice in Michigan — she’s also a major Republican donor — but many people, including some charter school advocates, have raised questions about her knowledge and experience to head the Department of Education.
This weekend, roughly a hundred people rallied outside the office of Colorado’s other senator, Republican Cory Gardner, to ask him to vote no.
Two Republican Senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have said they will not vote for DeVos, but with Vice President Mike Pence able to cast a tie-breaking vote, Democrats need a third no vote. And so far, one has not appeared.