Republicans cheered Tuesday's historic confirmation vote for Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary — Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote — slamming Democrats as obstructionists and saying that President Donald Trump was entitled to his Cabinet picks.
"President Trump has assembled a first-class team for his Cabinet, and obstructing all of these confirmation votes is only delaying the important work that needs to be done," Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton said.
"In my conversation with Betsy DeVos, I found her to have a deep appreciation for the value of public schools and a special concern for the needs of the disadvantaged.
"I have every expectation she'll return power to Arkansas parents, as I've long advocated for," he said.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman noted that DeVos "strongly supports local control of education and has pledged not to impose her own views on states and local school districts, but rather to allow them — along with parents — to make the decisions that best fit the needs of their children.
"She has also pledged to implement the laws as Congress intended them," Portman said.
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake called DeVos "an advocate for school choice and believes that every child should have the opportunity to receive a quality education, regardless of their ZIP code.
"I look forward to working with her to roll back the federal government's reach into education and allow states and localities to determine what's best for their students."
DeVos, 59, was confirmed after Vice President Pence cast the deciding vote to break a 50-50 tie that followed all-night debate as Democrats sought to sway at least one more Republican to cross party lines.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined with Democrats against the confirmation — arguing that DeVos' longtime focus on charter schools would undermine remote public schools in their states.
Pence's tie-breaking vote was the first cast by a vice president on a Cabinet nomination, according to the Senate historian.
"The yeas are 50 and the nays are 50," the former Michigan congressman said after taking the gavel. "The Senate being equally divided, the vice president votes — and the nomination is confirmed."
Following the vote, Murkowski — who serves with Collins on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee — pledged on Twitter that "although I did not vote in favor of Betsy DeVos, now that she's been confirmed, it is important we work together as she takes over."
DeVos' bitter confirmation process was rife with Democratic attacks on her lack of public school experience and financial interests in organizations supporting charter schools.
The wife of Dick DeVos, the heir to the Amway Corp. marketing fortune, the nominee has pledged to divest herself from those organizations.
She has spent more than two decades promoting charter schools and publicly funded voucher programs for private schools in her home state of Michigan and in other states.
Still, Democrats ridiculed DeVos' stumbles and confusion on some answers to questions — and teachers' unions and civil rights groups slammed her for backing charter schools and for her conservative religious ideology.
Before the vote, President Trump said on Twitter that DeVos was "a reformer, and she is going to be a great Education Sec. for our kids!"
Pence tweeted later, also before the vote, that supporting DeVos was "a vote for every child having a chance at a world-class education."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor that "we are no longer in the midst of a contentious presidential election.
"We have a new president, and that president has now put forth an exceptional Supreme Court nominee and a number of well-qualified Cabinet nominees," the Kentucky senator said.
"And yet, more than two weeks into his term, President Trump has the fewest Cabinet secretaries confirmed at this point than any other incoming president since George Washington."
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said that "a president deserves a Cabinet of his choosing.
"Mrs. DeVos has been involved in education reform for decades," he added. "She will bring a new perspective to ensure that every child can attend a school that prepares them for the future."
Several conservative education groups also praised DeVos' confirmation, including the Faith and Education Coalition of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, based in Austin, Texas.
"We share her commitment to high standards and quality education for all children as well as a shared belief that each child has been created in the image of God," said Andrea Ramirez, the coalition's executive director.
"May income, race and ZIP code no longer determine a child's educational outcome as we work together to provide excellent education options to all students," she said.
Tim Head, executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, called DeVos "someone of great personal character and integrity" who will "work to help ensure that every child in America has access to a quality education."
Brian Rogers, executive director of America Rising Squared in Arlington, Va., said that "Democrats threw the kitchen sink at Betsy DeVos because she dared to stand up to the failing status quo — and America's kids are better off today because Betsy is still standing as our nation's Secretary of Education."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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