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Pence casts tiebreaking vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as education secretary

In this image from video, provided by Senate Television shows Vice President Mike Pence presiding over the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, during the Senate's vote on Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos. The Senate confirmed DeVos with Pence breaking a 50-50 tie. (Senate Television via AP)

The Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary on Tuesday after Vice President Pence cast the tiebreaking vote.

All 48 senators who caucus with Democrats voted against DeVos. Fifty Republicans voted in favor of DeVos, while two Republicans — Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) — voted against DeVos. They had previously stated that they do not believe she is qualified for the job because she has not attended or sent her children to public school.

Pence voted in favor of Devos to break the 50-50 tie.

Daniel Holt, an assistant historian in the Senate Historical Office, told the Washington Post that DeVos’ confirmation is the first time that a vice president broke a tie vote in order to confirm a Cabinet secretary.

Democrats had launched a last-ditch effort to block DeVos’ confirmation when they realized two Republicans would vote against her. Democratic senators took to the Senate floor Monday evening in an effort to persuade one more of their Republican colleagues to join them.

"I ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to follow the courageous example of the senators from Maine and Alaska," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor Monday. "We have an obligation as Senators — not as Republicans, not as Democrats, but as Senators — to evaluate these nominees and their fitness for office, because these nominees are going to wield immense power over the lives of Americans for possibly the next four years."

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) addressed his Democratic colleagues from the Senate floor early Tuesday, saying that DeVos will “help to improve public education.”

Pence's stay in the Senate chamber was extremely brief, lasting perhaps less than a full minute. He entered, cast the deciding vote, and promptly left without any expanded comment.

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