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Democrats to speak on Senate Floor through the night

Final vote expected Tuesday morning around 9 a.m. PT

For the first time in history, a Cabinet nominee confirmation vote could stand at 50-50—with 2 Republicans joining Democrats, and VP needed to break tie

ICYMI—“Popular uprising” against the DeVos nominationLINK

Watch statement HERE.

(Washington, D.C.) –With just hours to go before a final Senate vote on the controversial nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) released a statement urging her colleagues to vote no. She cited the tens of thousands of parents and teachers from Washington state who had contacted her office, worried about the future of public education. The Senate is expected to hold a final vote President Trump’s nominee on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. PT./12:00 p.m. ET.

Click here for video of Sen. Murray on the Senate floor earlier today.

“Democrats will hold the floor for the next 24 hours, until the final vote, to do everything we can to persuade just one more Republican to join us. And I strongly encourage people across the country to join us—to double down on your advocacy—and to keep making your voices heard for these last 24 hours,” said Senator Murray today in remarks delivered on the Senate floor. “For…people across the country…the nomination of Betsy DeVos truly hit close to home. It was a slap in the face. Because she doesn’t approach this the way most of us do. She doesn’t cherish public education—she doesn’t value it. She is someone who has dedicated her career and her inherited fortune to privatizing public schools. To tearing down public education. To defunding it—in order to push more taxpayer dollars into private schools and for-profit charters.”

Senate Republicans have rushed through the nomination of DeVos even though serious questions remain about her tangled finances and potential conflicts of interest. DeVos’ nomination has generated overwhelming public outcry across the country, especially since her disastrous hearing where she displayed a lack of understanding of basic education issues.

“When they then see that person in a Senate hearing so clearly lack any understanding of the issues; when they see her unable to explain basic concepts in education policy, unwilling to make basic commitments to not privatizing or defunding public schools; confused about the need for federal protections for students with disabilities; and so committed to a right wing agenda that she pointed to the need for guns in schools to protect against “potential grizzly bears”—in response to a question from a Senator representing the Newtown families—well, people across the country pay even more attention—and they start to make their voices heard.”

Senate Democrats and Republicans have received hundreds of thousands of calls, emails, and petitions from constituents expressing their deep concern with DeVos’ qualifications and positions.

“Over the last few weeks, people across the country have continued to make their voices heard in opposition to the nomination of Betsy DeVos. Moms and dads. Grandmothers and grandfathers. Students—young and old. In cities and towns. In urban, suburban, and rural communities. People are standing up, and they will not be silenced. Thousands upon thousands have joined protests in their communities. Hundreds of thousands have e-mailed or called their Senators—jamming phone lines, swamping the voicemail system, and shattering records. Millions have engaged on social media—sharing information with their friends, signing petitions, and pressuring their elected officials.”

Senator Murray concluded in her remarks that: “if [DeVos] is confirmed, she would enter the job as the most controversial and embattled Secretaries in the history of this Department. She would start her job with no credibility inside the agency she is supposed to lead. With no influence in Congress. As the punchline in late night comedy shows—and without the confidence of the American people. M. President—a vote for Betsy DeVos is a vote for a Secretary of Education who is likely to succeed only in further dividing us on education issues. And who may try to take steps to implement her anti-student agenda—but would do so with people across the country, and so many of us in the Senate, on guard and ready to fight back.”

Full remarks by Senate Murray as prepared for delivery on the Senate floor:

M. President, over the last few weeks, people across the country have continued to make their voices heard in opposition to the nomination of Betsy DeVos.

Moms and dads. Grandmothers and grandfathers. Students—young and old. In cities and towns. In urban, suburban, and rural communities. People are standing up, and they will not be silenced. Thousands upon thousands have joined protests in their communities.

Hundreds of thousands have e-mailed or called their Senators—jamming phone lines, swamping the voicemail system, and shattering records. Millions have engaged on social media—sharing information with their friends, signing petitions, and pressuring their elected officials.

And M. President—it has made a difference. Every single Democrat will be standing with their constituents and opposing Betsy DeVos. Just last week, two Republicans announced their opposition as well. And, I can tell you, I know for a fact there are other Republicans who are feeling the heat, and could come around.

So M. President—this nomination is dead even right now—on the razor’s edge. Fifty Senators—Democrats and Republicans—will vote to reject Betsy DeVos.  And we just need one more Republican to join us—to stand on the side of students, parents, and public education in America—and say no to Betsy DeVos.

So M. President—I come to the floor today to kick off the final day of debate on this nomination. I spoke at length on Friday making my case for why the Senate should oppose Betsy DeVos. But Democrats will hold the floor for the next 24 hours, until the final vote, to do everything we can to persuade just one more Republican to join us. And I strongly encourage people across the country to join us—to double down on your advocacy—and to keep making your voices heard for these last 24 hours

M. President—over the past few weeks, I have heard a number of Republicans wonder why Democrats and so many parents and teachers across the country were so focused on this nomination, in this moment. President Trump has done so much in these first few weeks—and so many of the people he has nominated to run critical agencies have not been people I could support. But what is it about Betsy DeVos that has inspired so much grassroots energy and opposition across the country?

Well M. President—I think I understand.  It’s pretty clear to me. I think it’s that, for the vast majority of people across the country, public education isn’t just another issue. It’s different. For those of us who owe everything we have to the strong public education we received; for those of us who saw our children and grandchildren move through our public schools; for those of us who have walked into public school classrooms ourselves to teach, or have friends or family who have dedicated their lives to teaching.

For those of us who see the role strong public schools play in our communities—especially our rural communities—often offering an educational and a community resource where it simply wouldn’t otherwise be offered. We believe that a commitment to strong public schools is part of America's core. The idea that every student, in every community, should have the opportunities that strong public schools offer. This is a notion that is embedded in our values—it’s who we are—it’s in our blood.

So M. President—for those people across the country who feel that way—who believe those things—the nomination of Betsy DeVos truly hit close to home. It was a slap in the face. Because she doesn’t approach this the way most of us do. She doesn’t cherish public education—she doesn’t value it. She is someone who has dedicated her career and her inherited fortune to privatizing public schools. To tearing down public education. To defunding it—in order to push more taxpayer dollars into private schools and for-profit charters.

She has called public education “a dead end.” From where she sits—from a distance—she has called it “an embarrassment.” She has disparaged those who work in our public schools—saying that our best and our brightest “steer clear.” She has said education is “an industry.”

And for someone like her—a billionaire right wing activist who has spent her career and inherited fortune buying and selling companies—she just doesn’t understand a “industry” that isn’t focused on profits and that doesn’t exist in the free market.

So M. President—when people across the country hear someone like Betsy DeVos say these things about public education; when they hear a right wing conservative billionaire more focused on her anti-government ideology than on helping students; when they see that someone who has spent her career trying to destroy public schools has been nominated to lead the federal agency dedicated to public education—well, they start to pay some attention.

And M. President—when they then see that person in a Senate hearing so clearly lack any understanding of the issues; when they see her unable to explain basic concepts in education policy, unwilling to make basic commitments to not privatizing or defunding public schools; confused about the need for federal protections for students with disabilities; and so committed to a right wing agenda that she pointed to the need for guns in schools to protect against “potential grizzly bears”—in response to a question from a Senator representing the Newtown families—well, people across the country pay even more attention—and they start to make their voices heard.

So M. President—I am not surprised that opposition to Betsy DeVos has caught fire across the country. I am not surprised that people are talking to their friends about it—writing letters to their Senators—showing up to protest when they’ve never done anything like that before. Because this is about their kids. Their schools. Their communities.

It’s about the core idea that we are a nation that invests in strong public education—and one that strives to guarantee the promise and opportunity it affords to every student in our country. Not that public education is perfect—of course not. We have a lot of work to do!

But that our work should be directed toward strengthening public schools—not tearing them down. And that public education is something that should be valued as an important piece of the fabric of our nation and the expansion of the middle class—not scorned and ridiculed by billionaires who never had any use for it themselves.

M. President, I spent a lot of time on Friday laying out my case, in detail, opposing Betsy DeVos. I talked about the open questions remaining regarding her tangled finances and potential conflicts of interest. I ran through the strong concerns with her record, her lack of experience, and her clear lack of understanding of basic education issues. I discussed my strong belief that her vision for education in America is deeply at odds with where parents, students, and families across the country want to go. And went through the process—how Republicans jammed this nominee through the Committee, cutting corners and doing everything possible to protect her from scrutiny.

So M. President, I won’t go through all that again right now. But I want to make one more point—one that I hope will be compelling to my Republican friends who are still resisting pressure from their constituents and sticking with Betsy DeVos. And that is this. No matter what you think about Betsy DeVos’ policy ideas; no matter what you think of her qualifications to run this agency; no matter what you think about her personal understanding of the issues—or her financial entanglements; one thing is very clear: if she is confirmed, she would enter the job as the most controversial and embattled Secretaries in the history of this Department.

She would start her job with no credibility inside the agency she is supposed to lead. With no influence in Congress. As the punchline in late night comedy shows—and without the confidence of the American people. M. President—a vote for Betsy DeVos is a vote for a Secretary of Education who is likely to succeed only in further dividing us on education issues. And who may try to take steps to implement her anti-student agenda—but would do so with people across the country, and so many of us in the Senate, on guard and ready to fight back.

So I urge my Republican friends—and we just need one more—let’s cut this off right now.  Let’s ask President Trump to send us someone who is qualified—who understands the issues—and who truly cares about public education issues. And together, let’s stand with our constituents and say no to Betsy DeVos.

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