Donald Trump faces first confirmation setback as Betsy DeVos loses 2 Republican votes

Ms DeVos's performance was widely criticised 

US's education secretary Betsy DeVos at her confirmation hearing
US's education secretary Betsy DeVos at her confirmation hearing

The fate of Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, appeared to be in jeopardy, after two Republican senators said they will vote against her.

Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski announced their decision on the Senate floor, after having repeatedly expressed reservations. Their decision puts Ms DeVos one defection away from losing the 50 votes needed to confirm her nomination.

Both senators cited concerns with her support for charter schools and vouchers. It would be the first of Mr Trump's cabinet picks not to be confirmed.

“Her concentration on charter schools and vouchers raises the question about whether or not she fully appreciates that the Secretary of Education’s primary focus must be on helping … strengthen our public schools,” Ms Collins said. Ms Murkowski added that “thousands” of her constituents shared similar concerns.

Ms DeVos formerly chaired the advocacy group American Federation for Children, which promotes both publicly funded charter schools and vouchers for private school tuition. Ms DeVos has called such education reform a means to “advance God’s Kingdom.”

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More recently, the businesswoman stumbled through her 17 January confirmation hearing, where she appeared unfamiliar with both federal disability law and educational achievement standards. She narrowly avoided a second hearing on 23 January, when the Senate HELP Committee advanced her nomination to a full Senate vote.

Ms DeVos faced additional scrutiny from women’s rights groups and LGBTQ activists. In her hearing, she declined to commit to Title IX gender discrimination protections put in place by President Obama. She blamed records placing her on the board of an anti-LGBTQ foundation on a “clerical error.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing on 1 February that he had “100 percent confidence” in Ms DeVos’s confirmation.

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