Thanks to rule changes under Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid back in 2013, a simple majority is enough for Cabinet confirmation votes. Barring a dramatic turn of events, we expect nearly every nominee to be confirmed, the questions outstanding are: how many Democrats cross over and vote yea, how many Republicans defect and vote nay. Advocacy for school vouchers and charter schools have been platform positions of the Republican Party for years, so Betsy DeVos almost certainly gets all of their votes. What about the Senate overall?
The publicized Nays from Senators like Cortez Masto, King, Menendez, Wyden, and Gillibrand make the guesswork a lot simpler. Senators who have conflicted with Mrs. DeVos previously, or who come from states where teachers unions, strongly opposed to a Secretary DeVos, hold significant sway over the Democratic Party, fill in a lot of the not-public-but-pretty-obvious nays. After watching several floor votes and watching those nays, we can also piece together Senators not publicly opposing but who have used identical arguments against other nominees they have already nayed. You’ll notice that there is a stronger inclination for nay among Democrats with this Cabinet position than with the Attorney General. Mrs. DeVos lacks the insulation offered with being a Senator, and as of yet has no public yeas from the minority party. Democratic Senators with no statements or other indicators on the DeVos nomination are left as undecided, but may pile onto the bandwagon and force close to a party-line vote.
Mrs. DeVos is subject to a committee vote on Tuesday. She will likely clear it on at least a party-line vote, and then it’s a matter of scheduling before she makes it to the floor. The question marks we originally had left included some red state Democrats: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, but it also includes a few traditionally more liberal members. The final number of Democrats who actually votes for Mrss Devos can probably be counted on a single hand. It will be interesting to see who breaks ranks.
Update- soon after today’s chart was generated, Senator Joe Donnelly issued a statement that he will be opposing Betsy DeVos. In addition, an avid reader of the Desk emailed us linking to recent statements by Joe Manchin. We have moved him from undecided to no, as our experience has been when Senators in the opposing party repeatedly use the phrase “I might vote against/ uncomfortable/ leaning to oppose”, its a polite way of saying no. The West Virginia Senator is already voting for Jeff Sessions and likely to vote for Rex Tillerson, so he is expected to confirm most of President Trump’s more controversial picks.
Second update- Schatz now also a no on DeVos. Chart was last updated on 01/26/2017 at 835pm
Third update 1/27/2017- Maria Cantwell also a no. It was also brought to our attention via an email that Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono picketed during a teacher’s strike in 2001 and has received numerous endorsements and support from their unions. She has been moved to Nay in our estimated whip count.
Fourth update- CARPER comes out against DeVos, chart updated at 2:41pm
Fifth update- Reed just took to Twitter and released his opposition to DeVos.