Betsy DeVos could make history as the first pick for US education secretary ever to be rejected

Hello, goodbye?
Hello, goodbye?
Image: AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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US president Donald Trump’s latest astonishing feat: Getting Americans to get truly, vigorously riled up over education.

On Feb. 1, two Republican senators unexpectedly came out in opposition to the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s less-than-qualified pick for education secretary. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, and Susan Collins, of Maine, both announced on the Senate floor that they “cannot support” DeVos as the leader of America’s federal education department, becoming the first two Republican senators to disagree with any of Trump’s cabinet choices. While neither gave specific reasons, the list of general objections against DeVos is not short.

There are 52 Republicans in the 100-person Senate. Since Democrats have reportedly all pledged to vote against DeVos, the confirmation looks to result in a 50-50 tie—in which case vice president Mike Pence will be the deciding vote, pushing her confirmation through. But if just one more Republican senator decides to break across party lines, DeVos will be rejected.

Only nine presidential cabinet nominees have ever been rejected in US history, and none of them for education secretary.

The contention in the Senate around this particular nominee isn’t the only oddity around DeVos’s nomination. In the past few weeks, senators of both parties have been swarmed by thousands of phone calls and emails from parents and educators, imploring them to block the Michigan billionaire’s confirmation. People came out in physical protest against DeVos everywhere from Washington, DC to DeVos’s own hometown in Michigan.

A Philadelphia teacher even launched a crowdfunding campaign to “buy” Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey’s vote, mocking DeVos’s personal wealth and many financial conflicts of interest. It’s raised $14,600 in less than a day.

California educators protest DeVos at a teachers’ association meeting in January. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
California educators protest DeVos at a teachers’ association meeting in January. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

That the US is in such an uproar over an education secretary nominee, especially against the backdrop of other highly contentious figures Trump has picked for his cabinet, is unprecedented. If DeVos manages to squeeze by, a long list of criticisms and questions about her competency will no doubt trail her into office.

The Senate’s vote on DeVos is expected to take place on Monday, Feb. 6.