Washington Senator Patty Murray made a last-ditch effort on the Senate floor to change some minds ahead of the vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.
Democrats in the Senate, led by Murray, held the floor in an overnight blitz into Tuesday morning, speaking out against DeVos and urging the Republicans to vote against her. The vote to confirm DeVos will take place Tuesday, and with two Republican senators saying they would also vote against DeVos’s confirmation, the votes in the Senate are stuck in a dead heat. Vice president Mike Pence is expected to be the first VP in history to cast a tie-breaking vote for a cabinet appointment, unless one more Republican decides to vote against DeVos.
As the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Murray said Democrats would hold the floor for “24 hours, until the final vote, to do everything we can to persuade just one more Republican to join us.”
Murray spoke on the floor Monday night and again on Tuesday morning, and said voting against DeVos will be an opportunity for the Senate to show the people’s voices matter.
“Over the past two weeks, we have seen unprecedented levels of engagement from people on this nomination,” Murray said in a last speech on the floor Tuesday morning. “I’ve received tens of thousands of calls from people urging me to oppose Betsy DeVos—almost 50,000 letters.”
Murray and the Democrats have vehemently opposed DeVos’s nomination as Secretary of Education for reasons including her statements on wanting to prioritize private schools over public schools and her lack of experience with working in education. DeVos’s committee hearing was also rushed by the Republicans to avoid too much scrutiny, Murray said.
DeVos’s office did not respond to PubliCola @ Seattle Met’s requests for comment on the Democrats’ 24-hour blitz on the floor.
“If she is confirmed, she would enter the job as the most controversial and embattled secretaries in the history of this department,” Murray said Tuesday. “She would start her job with no credibility inside the agency she is supposed to lead, with no influence in Congress, as the punch line in late night comedy shows, and without the confidence of the American people.”
Other Washington Congress members also urged the public to help stand up against DeVos’s nomination. On Tuesday morning, representative Pramila Jayapal asked her supporters to add their names to a petition to block DeVos’s nomination, which she said she will deliver to Senators Murray and Cantwell before the vote.
“I can't stand on the Senate floor with my progressive brothers and sisters,” Jayapal said in a statement. “But I want them to know I'm standing with them in solidarity.”
Murray said she will continue to oppose DeVos’s nomination until the last vote is counted.
“I am here to finish this debate where we started: standing with students, with parents, with teachers, and with the people in my home state of Washington and across the country who support strong public schools and true education opportunities for all,” Murray said in her closing remarks in her Monday night speech.