President Donald Trump’s pick for Education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has cleared the first hurdle in her confirmation process.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved DeVos on Tuesday afternoon in a 12-11 vote that fell along party lines.
Democrats had strongly opposed DeVos’ nomination during her Jan. 17 confirmation hearing. They pressed her on her extended family’s support of organizations that promote conversion therapy and whether she would support gun-free zones in schools. DeVos was mocked in the media for her answers to both questions, even though she denied supporting conversion therapy and her answer on gun-free zones revolved around the notion that a far-off federal bureaucracy might not be the best judge of the unique needs of individual schools.
DeVos was also questioned on campus sexual assault and the Obama administration’s guidance documents that require schools to more forcefully adjudicate accusations with almost no ability for accused students to defend themselves. DeVos wouldn’t commit to upholding Obama-era guidance documents, stating that she would ensure the law is carried out in a way that protects accusers and the rights of the accused.
This, naturally, didn’t sit well with Democrats and activists, who argue that guaranteeing due process for accused students is tantamount to harming accusers.
In opposing DeVos, those against due process rights and school choice (which DeVos strongly supports), created the hashtag “Dump DeVos,” hoping to influence senators. It only worked on Democrats, who were already going to oppose Trump’s nominee.
DeVos’ nomination now moves to the full Senate. Republicans are in the majority, but two GOP members who supported her in committee — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have not committed to voting to confirm her on the Senate floor.