Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have both declared themselves opposed to President Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos. Saying that she had received “thousands, truly, thousands” of calls opposing DeVos, Murkowski announced today that she is opposed to the nomination. Counting Collins’ strike against DeVos, if all the senatorial Democrats are joined by the two dissenting Republicans in voting together against Devos, DeVos can only be confirmed if Vice President Mike Pence casts the tie-breaking ballot. However, if one more Republican votes against her, DeVos’s confirmation will be lost.
On the Senate floor yesterday, Collins said, “I simply cannot support her confirmation,” adding that she has been “troubled and surprised” by DeVos’s alleged “lack of familiarity” with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Then it was Murkowski who announced her decision. While she had voted on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to advance DeVos’s nomination, she went to the floor to say she was opposed.
Murkowski acknowledged that resistance to Trump had persuaded her to vote against his nominee. “I have heard from thousands, truly, thousands of Alaskans who have shared their concerns about Mrs. DeVos,” Murkowski said. She then announced, “I do not intend to vote on final passage to support Mrs. DeVos.”
This week, Alaska Dispatch News reported that more than 200 people protested outside of Murkowski’s office to protest against DeVos. A group called Great Alaska Schools campaigned against DeVo, claiming that she is unqualified for the post because of her alleged “lack of work or personal experience with public schools.” The group condemned her work to encourage alternatives to traditional public schools. Teachers unions and the National Education Association also pressured Murkowski.
Murkowski’s office staff claimed that about 30,000 calls came into her offices over the past week, almost exclusively about DeVos until the evening of January 29 when they became focused on Trump’s immigration policies. Murkowski said she was “overwhelmed.”
Murkowski told Katie Couric of Yahoo News said that rural communities do not have the resources to support school choice, as advocated by DeVos. She also claimed to be concerned about DeVos’s knowledge about federal law concerning students with disabilities.
Murkowski said that she expects to be targeted by President Trump and his Twitter account. “I cannot live in fear of a tweet,” Murkowski said. “We as lawmakers should not. What we need to be doing is working for the people that we represent, trying to do best by our states and their people, and doing so in working with a new administration.”
Murkowski appeared to validate the narrative coming out from Democrats and leftists about the Trump administration, saying that there are “a lot of bumpy spots in the road right now, a lot of things that have made many of us uncomfortable.” The senator said she has “very real reservations” about Trump’s executive order temporarily barring entry to the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and suspending the U.S. refugee program.
Democrats are hoping that at least one more more Republican senator can be persuaded to vote with Democrats on the DeVos confirmation. According to Yahoo News, a staffer in the Democratic caucus theorized that Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada, who are facing reelection in 2018, could change their minds and defect to the Democrats.
U.S. Navy personnel have discovered the remains of an American aviator who was shot down in combat over the Pacific Ocean in 1944. A team aboard USNS ...