Betsy DeVos’ confirmation is on the verge of making history — and that’s bad news

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

The Senate is slated to vote on the nomination of Betsy DeVos to serve as secretary of education early this week, a vote that could potentially make history — for all the wrong reasons.

Last week, two GOP Senators announced they would vote against DeVos' nomination, citing a massive outpouring of opposition from their constituents. 

Since Republicans hold 52 seats on the Senate, and because Democrats appear unified in their opposition to DeVos' nomination, Vice President Mike Pence may need to cast the tie-breaking vote in her favor in order to earn confirmation. 

If that were to happen, DeVos would be the first cabinet nominee ever to be confirmed by a vice presidential tie breaker, according to the Washington Post.

Tie-breaking votes in the Senate are extremely rare.

The Constitution grants the vice president — who is the ex officio president of the U.S. Senate — the ability to cast the deciding vote in the case of a tie.

But that has only happened 241 times out of thousands of Senate votes in all of American history, according to the Senate historian.

In fact, Pence's potential tie break would be the earliest in an administration's term since 1881, when Vice President Chester A. Arthur was forced to break a tie just 14 days into his tenure.

The last time a vice president broke a tie was on March 13, 2008, when Dick Cheney cast the deciding vote on an amendment to a tax cut package that Democrats said only benefited wealthy investors, according to a Fox News report at the time.

Former Vice President Joe Biden never broke a tie during his eight years in the White House.

In 2015, during the confirmation hearings on former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, it looked like Biden may have had to break a tie to get Lynch confirmed. However Lynch went on to earn confirmation with 56 votes

The Senate could vote on DeVos' nomination either late Monday or sometime on Tuesday, according to CNN.

In the meantime, education advocates and Democrats are flooding the phone lines of moderate Republican Senators, hoping they can get just one more GOP vote against DeVos to sink her nomination.

If DeVos were voted down, she'd join an exclusive club of cabinet nominees who failed to earn confirmation in a Senate vote.

To date, only nine cabinet nominees in all of American history were voted down by the Senate, according to the Senate historian. 

The last cabinet nominee to be rejected by the Senate was John G. Tower in 1989, who lost a Senate confirmation vote to serve as President George H.W. Bush's secretary of defense.

Twelve other cabinet nominees withdrew their name from consideration before they could be voted down, according to the Senate historian.

The last nominee to withdraw from consideration was former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) in 2009 over questions of unpaid taxes. Former President Barack Obama had nominated him to serve as secretary of health and human services.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn — who is in charge of tracking Senate Republican votes — assured reporters last week that DeVos will be confirmed.

"She'll be confirmed — you can take that to the bank," Cornyn told the Washington Post.

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Emily C. Singer

Emily C. Singer, née Cahn, is a senior writer for Mic covering politics. She is based in New York and can be reached at esinger@mic.com

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