VP breaks Senate tie to confirm DeVos as US education secretary
Vice-president called in to break a tie that threatened to defeat Donald Trump’s choice
Betsy DeVos testifies at the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee confirmation hearing last month. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters
The US senate has confirmed school choice activist Betsy DeVos as education secretary, with vice-president Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie.
The senate historian said it was the first time a vicepresident has had to break a tie on a cabinet nomination.
Two Republicans joined Democrats on Tuesday to vote to derail Ms DeVos’s nomination.
Democrats cited her lack of public school experience and financial interests in organisations pushing charter schools. Ms DeVos has said she would divest herself from those organisations.
Republicans Susan Collins, of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, fear that Ms DeVos’s focus on charter schools will undermine remote public schools in their states.
Ms DeVos, a wealthy Republican donor and longtime school choice advocate, has emerged as one of Mr Trump’s most controversial cabinet picks.
Labour unions have bitterly contested Ms DeVos’s nomination, fearing that she will undermine public education by promoting charter schools and publicly funded voucher programmes for private schools.
Mr Trump stood behind his nominee, accusing Democrats of fighting progress and change.
“Senate Dems protest to keep the failed status quo,” Mr Trump tweeted before the vote. “Betsy DeVos is a reformer, and she is going to be a great Education Sec. for our kids!”
Secretary of education
Champion of charter schools, philanthropist, Republican donor
The billionaire philanthropist (59) believes in privatising public education. The former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and her family, who own the Amway business, have donated more than $200 million to the party. She was criticised for her shaky grasp of education issues during her confirmation hearing and for suggesting that guns should be allowed in certain schools to deal, for example, with the threat from grizzly bears in Wyoming.