DeVos moves one step closer to Education Secretary

Nomination moves to Senate floor on 12-11 party line vote

This is an ongoing story. We will update as new information comes in.
Last update: 12:25 pm.

The Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 12-11 along party lines to pass Betsy DeVos along to the full Senate, which would be the final step in her confirmation process.

Learn more: How a nominee becomes the new Education Secretary

However, Democrats refuted the initial vote as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) submitted a proxy vote on behalf of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Hatch arrived at the meeting shortly thereafter and the committee confirmed the vote.

Much of the debate prior to the vote centered around DeVos' finances and her approach to K-12 education. Higher education did come up twice, once when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) raised concerns about DeVos' commitment to enforcing loan forgiveness for defrauded students, and a second time when Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colorado) included college access on a list of education issues he says he's not sure DeVos will pursue.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) also raised concerns that DeVos' answers included passages potentially taken from other sources without attribution—which the Washington Post first reported. The Post published the full list of questions and answers here.

Two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) voted in favor of passing along DeVos' nomination, but also expressed that they haven't decided they'll vote for her when her nomination reaches the Senate floor.

DeVos has been an unusually contentious candidate.

At her confirmation hearing, squabbles over procedure broke out before DeVos had even said a word. Afterward, critics pounced on her vague answers and mistakes about policy facts, such as how much tuition has risen in recent years.

Democrats repeatedly requested to delay the vote or hold additional hearings to await more information about DeVos' potential financial conflicts of interest, but HELP Committee Chair Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) denied the requests.

A few days before the HELP Committee vote, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) said no Democrats would vote to confirm her and that the caucus was seeking to recruit Republicans to vote against her as well.

A few higher education leaders have voiced opposition to DeVos as well. A dean at the University of Virginia characterized her performance at her confirmation hearing as "disqualifying." The academic senate at the California State University system passed a resolution opposing her confirmation.

A group formed to support DeVos' nomination, the Friends of Betsy DeVos, says she has the support of several Republican governors as well as a few Democrats, such as former District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams (Kreighbaum, Inside Higher Ed, 1/31; Strauss, Washington Post, 1/27; Pianta, Washington Post, 1/26; DeBonis/Brown, Washington Post, 1/31; Brown/Balingit, Washington Post, 1/31; Spangler, Detroit Free Press, 1/31).

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