Senate holds 24hr debate on Trump's education pick

Betsy Devos came under fire over her answers during her senate confirmation hearing

Senate holds 24hr debate on Trump's education pick

Image: Carolyn Kaster AP/Press Association Images

Senate Democratics will be debating the nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of the US Department of Education for the next 24 hours. 

The action is an attempt to call more public attention to the vote, and increase public pressure on GOP senators who have already received tens of thousands of calls and emails from people who oppose Mrs DeVos.

Mrs DeVos risks becoming the first cabinet nominee in 28 years to be rejected by the Senate, after two Republican senators said they would not support her nomination. The Senate is expected to vote following the day-long debate.

That vote is likely to be a 50-50 tie, with Vice President Mike Pence then taking a rare tiebreaker vote to ensure that DeVos is confirmed. If that happens, it would be the first time a vice president has needed to cast the tie-breaking vote for a Cabinet secretary.

Despite the news about opposition to President Trump's pick, White House press secretary Sean Spicer stood by DeVos, saying he is "100% confident she will be the next secretary of education."

'Embarrassing'

Senator Chuck Schumer called her answers at her senate confirmation hearing "embarrassing", saying her lack of knowledge surrounding federal education laws means she "failed to make the grade".

"She couldn't unequivocally say that guns shouldn't be in schools," he added, referring to her answer in which she suggested some schools should have guns on campus to protect against grizzly bear attacks.

"On the philosophy of education, her views are extreme. She seems to constantly demean the main purpose of her job - public education."

Who is Betsy DeVos?

Mrs. DeVos, a 59-year-old billionaire, has spent decades pushing for charter schools - publicly funded but mostly privately run schools - and advocating for school vouchers, which provide public funds for children to attend private schools.

On her confirmation hearing, a spokesman for the group Friends of Betsy DeVos said she "was not as articulate as she could have been."

"She doesn’t have an inordinate amount of experience fending off a dozen hostile, grandstanding senators whose singular goal was to trip her up and embarrass her," Ed Patru said.