Speed Reads

the trump cabinet

The Senate is being swamped by calls about Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos seems to have hit a nerve. President Trump's education secretary nominee is one Republican vote away from being rejected for the job. The Senate successfully started the clock early Friday for an up-or-down vote late Monday or Tuesday, but already Vice President Mike Pence will have to show up to try to break what's currently a 50-50 tie, the first time a vice president has had to vote on a Cabinet nominee. The defection of Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) has sidelined the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who would have to leave the Senate if approved as attorney general, leaving Republicans one vote shy.

The calls have been pouring in to the Senate switchboard about DeVos, according to Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) — though he doesn't say if they are for or against the nomination:

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said an average of 1.5 million calls have swamped the Senate each day this week, and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said he's gotten 80,000 letters about DeVos from constituents. One of the Republicans that anti-DeVos activists are targeting, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), said he's "experiencing heavy call volumes in all our offices," and urged constituents to keep calling. He and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) have both indicated they will vote for DeVos.

DeVos, a billionaire Republican donor who favors taxpayer-funded vouchers for private school and for-profit charters schools, did not have a great confirmation hearing. She faces opposition from public school teachers and their unions but also some big proponents of nonprofit charter schools, and there has been an unexpected groundswell of grassroots opposition. This is odd, The New York Times notes, because the only Trump Cabinet nominee at risk of rejection would fill "one of the least powerful" positions, 16th in line for the presidency and overseeing only about 3 percent of the federal budget.