Colorado’s U.S. senators split their votes along party lines Tuesday in the historic vote confirming billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos as U.S. education secretary.
Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, rejected DeVos’s nomination, while Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, supported President Donald Trump’s pick.
Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-splitting vote after two Republicans joined the Senate’s 48 Democrats in opposing DeVos — the first time a vice president’s vote was required to confirm a cabinet appointment.
Gardner faced pressure from Colorado teachers and parents to oppose DeVos, including a Saturday morning rally outside his downtown Denver office.
DeVos, a Michigan school choice advocate, unexpectedly became one of Trump’s most controversial cabinet picks after she stumbled at her confirmation hearing.
Leading up to Tuesday’s vote, Democrats spoke out against DeVos from the Senate floor.
“Ms. DeVos has shown no evidence of her commitment to be the torchbearer for both excellence and equity,” said Bennet, a former Denver Public Schools superintendent.
“A commitment to choice without a commitment to quality serves ideology rather than improvement, and a commitment to competition without a commitment to equity would forsake our democratic ideal that a free, high-quality public education must open the doors of opportunity for all.”
Gardner issued the following statement after the vote:
As a product of public schools myself, and a father with one child – soon to be three – in the public school system, I believe it is important to have someone leading the Department of Education who will fight for public schools. When I had the opportunity to meet Betsy DeVos personally, she pledged to me that she would be an advocate for public schools, teachers and educational opportunity for all. The debate around her nomination has been a healthy exercise of our democracy, made all the more important because it involves our most precious possession, our children. As someone who believes education decisions should be left to parents and their children with policy driven locally, Congress will hold her accountable and I will work to ensure she lives up to the commitment she made to me.