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Two Republican senators break rank to oppose Betsy DeVos. Will that be enough to doom confirmation?

Targeted by massive voter outreach, two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, told their Senate colleagues today they will not support Betsy DeVos for education secretary.

Their willingness to buck the GOP alliance behind DeVos, a Michigan billionaire and major political donor, reflects the mounting public outrage over her selection by Donald Trump. With no education background and a longstanding commitment to getting kids out of public schools, DeVos drew so much resistance that Georgians could not even get through on several days to their senators to leave messages.

Despite her support of charter schools, DeVos even faced opposition from charter groups because of her defense of the for-profit sector and her battle to limit accountability in her home state of Michigan.  That lack of accountability has led to Michigan having more for-profit charters than any other state and Detroit, where most of the charter schools are located, having some of the lowest-performing.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Murkowski said, “I think that Mrs. DeVos has much to learn about our nation’s public schools."

WIth every Democrat expected to vote "no" on DeVos, her confirmation becomes less assured. However, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said, “I am 100 percent confident she will be the next secretary of education."

That becomes trickier now that two of the 52 GOP senators have bailed. There are 46 Democrats and two independents in the Senate.  If there is a tie, Vice President Mike Pence casts the deciding vote, which will give DeVos the job.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.