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DeVos Decisions: The Leaders Who Could Make Or Break The New Education Nominee
02/06/2017 Cabinet Positions Andrew S
keywords: Betsy Devos Pence

Democrats staunchly oppose President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, and a recent development may allow them to stop her confirmation. Senators Susan Collins (R- ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R- AK) announced that they would vote against DeVos, leaving the Senate split 50-50 on this issue. Confirmation is thus likely to come down to a single political leader, who could be:

Mike Pence

In the event of a 50-50 split, Mike Pence, who as Vice President is also President of the Senate, will have the opportunity to cast a tie-breaking vote. The last Vice President to do this was Dick Cheney, who in 2008 voted in favor of a tied tax proposal. Pence has explicitly stated that he will vote in favor of DeVos, and is unlikely to back down, as it would be politically costly for him to vote against his own running mate’s nominee.

John McCain

If another Republican joins Collins and Murkowski, however, Pence will not have the opportunity to vote for DeVos. Arizona Senator John McCain may well be that third Republican vote. Describing himself as a “maverick,” McCain has long been willing to oppose his party if its policies conflict with his principles. Critics of DeVos hope that he will break ranks over her confirmation as well, and have flooded his offices with calls asking him to do just that. McCain has not openly opposed DeVos, however, and he has received campaign donations from her, making a “nay” vote from him something of a long shot.

Jeff Flake

Like his fellow Arizona Senator, Jeff Flake is often portrayed as a moderate, focused more on building consensus in Congress than on supporting the GOP’s objectives. Critics of DeVos have thus called him as well, urging him to vote against her. Flake is up for reelection in 2018, and given how his state has been trending Blue, he may decide to vote against her to shore up support among moderates. However, he also faces a hard-right primary challenger who could win if he votes against DeVos.

Dean Heller

Nevada Senator Dean Heller is also up for reelection in 2018, and unlike with Flake, his state voted Democratic in the last three presidential elections. Heller thus has an especially strong incentive to win over independents and moderate Democrats; voting against DeVos might accomplish that. Heller did state that he would support the nominee, but given his political predicament, it is still possible that he will change his mind.

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