Senate Democrats hold floor in effort to prevent DeVos confirmation

Monday, February 6, 2017 - 4:51pm

U.S. Senate Democrats are intending to hold the Senate floor for 24 hours in protest of the nomination of Betsy DeVos, Michigan native and education activist, for secretary of education. The final vote is expected to take place at noon on Tuesday.

Multiple Democrats indicated they would voice their concerns in the all-night protest on Monday afternoon and spread the word of their objections using the hashtag “#HoldTheFloor.”


Currently, all Senate Democrats and two Senate Republicans plan to vote against DeVos. Unless Democrats are successful in convincing another Republican senator to switch his or her vote, Vice President Mike Pence will likely have to break a 50-50 tie, and is expected to support DeVos.

Republicans won the procedural vote on whether or not to extend the debate time on Friday with a 52-48 vote along party lines. According to the Senate Historical Office, this would be the first time the vice president would have to break a tie for a Cabinet confirmation.

“We’re very confident that Betsy DeVos is going to be the next secretary of education, and it’ll be my high honor to cast the deciding vote on the floor of the Senate next week,” Pence said Sunday on Fox News.

Republicans have defended DeVos as a true conservative who will decrease federal involvement in public education, while Democrats are concerned with her lack of education experience and her emphasis on directing funding toward charter schools.

Sen. Gary Peters (D–Mich.) spoke on the Senate floor in January in opposition to DeVos, and said, in addition to having no education experience, the failure of Michigan charter schools proves DeVos’s plan to be dangerous.

“Unfortunately, in my home state of Michigan, the charter school experiment has not lived up to the promises made,” Peters said. “In fact, 65 percent of charter schools in Michigan fail — yes, fail — to significantly outperform traditional public schools in reading outcomes. In Detroit, 70 percent of charter schools are in the bottom quartile of Michigan’s schools.”

Peters, who said his office has received over 8,000 calls in opposition to DeVos, spoke again on the Senate floor during the 24-hour protest on Monday, and urged his colleagues to listen to their constituencies.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D–Mich.) also took to the 24-hour Senate floor protest to express her concern, emphasizing that charter schools make education a commodity, which many cannot afford.

“A competitive free market system with winners and losers works in the private marketplace,” Stabenow said. “But, it doesn’t work for educating our children, because we can’t afford losers when it comes to something as basic as fundamental education.”

While Democrats are expected to hold the floor overnight, Republican senators made the majority voice heard on Monday as well. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) advocated for DeVos’s plan to decentralize public education.

“Importantly, she also understands that our teachers, students, parents, school boards and local and state governments are best suited to make education decisions, not Washington bureaucrats,” McConnell said.