President Trump’s nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos has been confirmed by Senate by the slenderest possible margin.
After the chamber had split 50-50, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to secure her the cabinet position.
This is the first time in U.S. history that a Vice-President has voted to break a tie for a cabinet confirmation.
Mrs. DeVos has no experience with public schools, and her nomination has been controversial from the start; she faced a rocky confirmation hearing last month.
Moments after her role got secured, she tweeted:
“I appreciate the Senate’s diligence & am honored to serve as @usedgov Secretary. Let’s improve options & outcomes for all US students.”
A 24-hour debate was staged by Senate Democrats in a bid to convince more Republicans to vote against the nominee. But their efforts went in vain when they were unable to get a third Republican to cast a “no” vote against Mrs. DeVos, who was later sworn in her new role as education secretary by Vice-President Pence.
Dick Cheney was the last Vice-President who cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate in 2008, but it was on a tax adjustment plan.
The Senate vote ended in a deadlock after all the Democrats voted against the nominee, and two Republicans also opposed her confirmation.
Critics argue that Mrs. DeVos is unfit to run the Department of Education. She came under fire last month, during her Senate Committee hearing, when she suggested that a school in Wyoming might need a gun to defend against grizzly bears.
Her nomination has been criticized by labor unions, teaching organizations, and rights groups. Protests against Mrs. DeVos were held outside Congress by groups including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the American Federation of Teachers on Monday.
The 59-years-old billionaire has been a Republican Party donor who has campaigned for education reform in the state of Michigan for a long time; she is also the former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman.
She’s a champion of charter schools that are funded publicly but operated outside the state school systems.
Her husband, Dick DeVos, was the chief executive of the beauty and nutrition giant Amway and her brother, Erik Prince is the founder of the controversial private security company Blackwater.
Mrs. DeVos was among those Trump nominations which the Democrats have been trying to block from getting approved. Democrats said last month that they would target eight of Trump’s cabinet nominees based on their lack of qualifications for the particular post.
According to Washington Post, only six of Trump’s cabinet picks had been confirmed before Mrs. Devos, compared with Obama’s 12 confirmation at this time in 2009 and George W Bush’s 16 cabinet secretaries in 2001.
Some of Mr. Trump’s picks have not completed the lengthy vetting process, which is required by Cabinet candidates as it helps in identification of any conflicts of interest.
As the fate of fifteen of Trump’s nominees hangs in the balance, hundreds of staff positions also remain vacant.