News Releases

For the first time in history, a Cabinet nominee was confirmed with VP breaking 50-50 tie

Senators have received hundreds of thousands of calls, emails, and petitions opposing DeVos’ nomination 

Murray: “We may not have won this fight today, but people across the country have stood up and made their voices heard”    

ICYMI—Senate Dems refused to yield floor in final 24-hour pushLINK 

Murray: “Millions of people across the country who have been activated and energized by opposition to this nomination do not consider this to be the end of the story

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education in a tie vote of 50-50, broken by Vice President Mike Pence. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, led Senate Democrats in a 24-hour final debate prior to today’s vote. Senator Murray released the following statement after DeVos’ confirmation, ensuring that this is not the end of the story, and that the fight to defend strong public education will go on.

“We may not have won this fight today, but people across the country have stood up and made their voices heard on the importance of strong public education in America, and we are not going to stand down.

“Republicans ignored the pressure from their constituents and jammed this nomination through with a historic tie-breaking vote from Vice President Pence. But it was truly inspiring to see millions of people energized and making their voices heard. People wrote letters, called offices, posted on social media, and showed up to protest this nomination—many of whom had never done anything like that before.

“The reason that opposition to Betsy DeVos caught fire is clear. To so many of us, education hits so close to home—it’s about our kids, our grandkids, and our communities. We believe that a commitment to strong public education for every student in our country is such a core part of the American promise, and we were proud to stand up and fight back against someone who threatened that.

“Betsy DeVos will be our next Secretary of Education, but it is clear that people across the country and Democrats and Republicans here in the Senate believe that we should work together to strengthen public education, not privatize or defund it. So I am hopeful that she enters her new role taking this to heart, and ready to adjust her views. I know that millions of people across the country who have been activated and energized by opposition to this nomination do not consider this to be the end of the story, and I plan to keep up the fight by their side to hold Betsy DeVos accountable and push her to do the right thing for parents and students.”

This is the first time in history that a cabinet nominee was confirmed by a Vice President’s tie-breaking vote. Senate Republicans rushed through the nomination of DeVos even though serious questions remain about her tangled finances and potential conflicts of interest, and her nomination has generated overwhelming public outcry across the country. 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.

Excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks as prepared for delivery prior to the final vote:

“I come to the floor today to make one final push before this vote. To make the case one last time. Because we are so, so close.  Because this is so important. And because we have a real shot, right now, to show people across the country that the United States Senate can listen to them. That their voices matter. And that their Senators put them—their kids, their families, their futures—above loyalty to a Party or a President.”

“Over the past few weeks, people have learned about Betsy DeVos’ tangled finances and potential conflicts of interest. How she and her family have given hundreds of millions of dollars to Republicans and extreme conservative groups. They have learned about her failed record. How she has spent her career and her inherited fortune pushing anti-public school policies that have hurt so many students in her home state of Michigan and across the country. They have learned about the extreme right wing ideology that drives her. How she wants to bring her anti-government, free-market-above-all philosophy to an education system that she has called nothing more than “an industry” and “a dead end.””

“People across the country saw a nominee who was clearly ill-informed, and confused—and who gave a number of very concerning responses to serious and reasonable questions. In that hearing, Betsy DeVos refused to rule out slashing investments in, or privatizing, public schools. She was confused that federal law provides protections for students with disabilities.”

“Over the past two weeks, we have seen unprecedented levels of engagement from people on this nomination. I’ve received tens of thousands of calls from people urging me to oppose Betsy DeVos. Almost fifty thousand letters. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country are calling and emailing their Senators—and joining protests in their communities. Millions are sharing information on social media. Many of these people have never been involved in anything political before—but felt the need to get engaged now. And—it has made a difference. Right now we have every single Democrat opposing this nomination. We have two Republicans who have listened to their constituents and joined us.”

“We are dead even—and for the first time in history, the Vice President could be called on to cast the tie-breaking vote on a cabinet nominee. But—we just need one more one more Republican—just one more—to join us and prevent that from happening. We just need one more Republican—just one more—to help us show people across the country that their voice matters in this debate. We just need one more Republican—just one more—to stand with people across the country—and say no to Betsy DeVos.”

“So I am here to finish this debate where we started. Standing with students. With parents. With teachers. With the people in my home state of Washington and across the country who support strong public schools and true education opportunities for all. And with the Democrats and Republicans across the country who have poured their heart and soul into opposing this nominee. I stand with you. And I urge just one more Republican to join us. Thank you.”

Senator Murray’s full remarks as prepared for delivery before the final vote:

Democrats have been here on the Senate floor for the past 24 hours straight. Talking about the importance of public education. Sharing stories from parents, students, and teachers in our home states. Highlighting all of the reasons for Senators to stand with us, stand with their constituents, stand with other Republicans who are doing the right thing and urging them to say no to Betsy DeVos and her plans to privatize public schools and destroy public education in America

But—I come to the floor today to make one final push before this vote. To make the case one last time. Because we are so, so close.  Because this is so important. And because we have a real shot, right now, to show people across the country that the United States Senate can listen to them. That their voices matter. And that their Senators put them—their kids, their families, their futures—above loyalty to a Party or a President.

I’ve talked about my frustration at the fact that Republican leaders did everything they could to jam this nominee through the Senate—cutting corners and rushing into a hearing before her ethics paperwork was in; blocking Democrats from asking more than five minutes of questions; forcing a vote before all of our questions were answered about her tangled finances and potential conflicts of interest; and rushing straight from the Committee vote to the shortest possible floor debate they could manage.

So I won’t spend any more time on that today. Because the truth is—despite Republicans’ best efforts—people across the country have learned a whole lot about Betsy DeVos over the past few weeks. And the more they’ve learned about her, the less they’ve liked.  And the more outraged they’ve become.

Over the past few weeks, people have learned about Betsy DeVos’ tangled finances and potential conflicts of interest. How she and her family have given hundreds of millions of dollars to Republicans and extreme conservative groups. They have learned about her failed record. How she has spent her career and her inherited fortune pushing anti-public school policies that have hurt so many students in her home state of Michigan and across the country.

They have learned about the extreme right wing ideology that drives her. How she wants to bring her anti-government, free-market-above-all philosophy to an education system that she has called nothing more than “an industry” and “a dead end.” And—when people saw her in her hearing—they learned even more.

When they watched Betsy DeVos in that hearing room. Whether they saw it live, on the evening news, on the Daily Show, the View, or one of the many other shows covering it—on one of the many clips that went viral on social media, or shared by a friend or family member a whole lot of people were introduced to Betsy DeVos for the first time in that hearing—and they were not impressed.

People across the country saw a nominee who was clearly ill-informed, and confused—and who gave a number of very concerning responses to serious and reasonable questions. In that hearing, Betsy DeVos refused to rule out slashing investments in, or privatizing, public schools. She was confused that federal law provides protections for students with disabilities.

She didn’t understand a basic issue in education policy—the debate surrounding whether students should be measured based on their proficiency, or their growth. She argued that guns needed to be allowed in schools across the country to “protect from grizzlies.” Even though she was willing to say President Trump’s behavior toward women should be considered sexual assault—she wouldn’t commit to actually enforcing federal law protecting women and girls in our schools.

And—those were just a few moments in that hearing that made it clear why Betsy DeVos is not qualified to do this job—there were so many more. What people saw in that hearing wasn’t just a nominee who didn’t understand the issues. They saw a nominee for Secretary of Education who clearly didn’t think about public education, and public schools, the way they did. For most people, public education hits close to home. It’s part of who we are—our families, and our communities.

So many of us owe everything we have to public education. We’ve watched our kids, our grandkids, our neighbors get on the bus to their local public school. Many of us have taught in public schools—or have family or friends who walk into classrooms every single day to help our students learn. And so many of us believe a commitment to strong public schools, that offer an education and opportunities to every student—is such a core part of the American promise.

So when we saw someone nominated to this position who knows so little about public education, who clearly cares so little about public education, whose strongest connection to public schools is through her dedication to tearing them down, that really struck a chord with a whole lot of people. And they decided to make their voices heard.

Over the past two weeks, we have seen unprecedented levels of engagement from people on this nomination. I’ve received tens of thousands of calls from people urging me to oppose Betsy DeVos. Almost fifty thousand letters. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country are calling and emailing their Senators—and joining protests in their communities. Millions are sharing information on social media.

Many of these people have never been involved in anything political before—but felt the need to get engaged now. And—it has made a difference. Right now we have every single Democrat opposing this nomination. We have two Republicans who have listened to their constituents and joined us.

So we are dead even—and for the first time in history, the Vice President could be called on to cast the tie-breaking vote on a cabinet nominee. But—we just need one more one more Republican—just one more—to join us and prevent that from happening. We just need one more Republican—just one more—to help us show people across the country that their voice matters in this debate. We just need one more Republican—just one more—to stand with people across the country—and say no to Betsy DeVos.

So I am here to finish this debate where we started. Standing with students. With parents. With teachers. With the people in my home state of Washington and across the country who support strong public schools and true education opportunities for all. And with the Democrats and Republicans across the country who have poured their heart and soul into opposing this nominee.

I stand with you. And I urge just one more Republican to join us. Thank you.

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