The nomination of Betsy DeVos as the Education Secretary of Donald Trump has cleared the full senate vote. But it was a very tight one in the end, amid several controversies, including accusations that she had lifted quotes at least twice, while providing written answers to the Senate committee. It was 12-11 in the end.
DeVos has always been a controversial figure in Michigan and in education circles too. Democrats had been arguing that she was not the right person for the job, as DeVos has little knowledge and experience with education policy, and would end up undermining the public school system. It was a costly mistake they said.
Republicans Reject Democrat Doubts About DeVos
Republicans, however, rejected this claim, saying she has always been committed to children and has been a key supporter of school choice and vouchers. But there was some division amongst the Republicans too, as at least two GOP members had indicated that their vote was not guaranteed on the Senate floor. This had raised doubts on whether her nomination would eventually go through. It would have been a major embarrassment for the new President.
The Republican senator from Alaska Lisa Murkowski had cast her vote to advance the nomination of DeVos, but later said she is not committed to a final confirmation vote because her commitment to public schools was still doubtful. “I’ve expressed my concerns about her”, Lisa said. Senator Susan Collins from Maine had also expressed her doubts about Betsy DeVos. With these two, Democrats had a chance to block her nomination, though the Republicans are in majority in the chamber.
In the end, it was a relief for Trump that DeVos cleared the vote, albeit narrowly. Senators on the Health, Education, Pensions and Labor Committee voted 12-11. The final vote for confirmation in the Senate hasn’t been scheduled yet.
Did Betsy DeVos Plagiarize Her Answers?
Earlier, there were accusations that DeVos had plagiarized quotes at least twice while submitting written answers to the senate committee that was debating her nomination.
Responding to a question from Senator Patty Murray on bullying of LGBT students, DeVos wrote, “Every child deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive environment where they can learn, thrive, and grow”. Vanita Gupta, head of Obama’s Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, had said the same in May 2016.
There was a second instance after this. Rob Goad, the education adviser of Trump, however, says these allegations are “character assassination”.