U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed both released statements Tuesday expressing frustration over Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as secretary of education.
“This was a historically unqualified nominee who should have been rejected,” wrote Reed, Rhode Island's senior senator.
All Democratic and two Republican senators voted against DeVos leaving the final tally at 50-50. Vice President Mike Pence had to break the tie, a first in cabinet confirmations.
The vote took place after Democrats held the floor in an overnight "talkathon." During the all-night protest, Reed mentioned the estimated 12,500 constituents who called him to express opposition to a DeVos confirmation.
“Our constituents want a champion for public education at the helm of the Department of Education,” said Reed, adding that voters are demanding someone more familiar with the public school system.
“They have determined that Betsy DeVos is not that person,” said Reed.
Sen. Whitehouse said his office received about 3,000 calls with 99% of them voicing opposition to DeVos.
“Betsy DeVos certainly did not inspire confidence in the thousands of Rhode Islanders who called, wrote, or emailed me to say she doesn’t share their vision for our students,” said Whitehouse.
A member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Whitehouse was one of the lawmakers who asked DeVos to fully disclose her fundraising ties to political groups in late January. Whitehouse called DeVos’ responses “incomplete, unresponsive, and unhelpful.”
The senator voiced concern over the implications of such a close vote.
“Vice President Pence’s trip down Pennsylvania Avenue today shows just how hard Republicans have had to work to stack and jam President Trump’s underqualified and conflicted nominees through the Senate,” said Whitehouse Tuesday.
Whitehouse said he stands by his vote, citing DeVos’ conflicts of interest and her limited experience in education.