It is the afternoon of Tuesday February 7, 2017 as I write this. The Senate of the United States of America made both history and a tragic mistake earlier this afternoon. My guess is that one Republican Senator reneged on their word. Let’s explore.
The Senate deadlocked at 50-50 on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. The 48 Senators who are either Democrats or caucus with them voted against her as did Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. I don’t know it for a fact and certainly don’t have a name, but instinct and history tell me another Republican was going to join them and didn’t.
As provided for in the Constitution, the tie was broken by Vice President Mike Pence. This was the first time any cabinet secretary was confirmed by the narrowest of margins.
Murkowski will occasionally defect from the Republican pack. She certainly is a Republican at heart; agreeing with almost the Party’s entire platform as well as holding many of the more conservative values of most non-coastal western members of Congress. Of all Republicans in the Senate she owes the least to the Republican Party. In 2010 she was forced to defend her seat as a write-in when Tea Party insurgent Joe Miller won the Republican nomination.
Collins is the more interesting case and the one that sparked my idea. Susan Collins is the Republican Senator that I have the most respect for. She is not a progressive. What she is, is a true patriot who cares deeply about America and its future. Even though she is not a progressive, I respect her and that! Collins has a history of defecting from the Republican Party line if she feels strongly about an issue and her vote makes a difference in the outcome. It is simply smart politics and good for her constituents for her to fall in line with other Republicans if her vote doesn’t change the result.
Senator Collins is far from stupid and certainly can count to 51. She also knows what happens in the event of a tie vote in the Senate. History tells me she wouldn’t have broken ranks unless she thought her vote could sink the confirmation. That makes me theorize that another Republican Senator had privately agreed to vote against DeVos but failed to keep their word.
Both Collins and Murkowski justified their votes by saying that DeVos was simply unqualified for the job. Considering that DeVos doesn’t have an advanced degree or any degree in education, has never taught and has never even sent her children to public schools; that is an understatement. Couple those facts with the dismal performance DeVos turned in during the hearings in which she illustrated her ignorance of educational lingo and theories that most rookie teachers have, making the case of being unqualified was as much a given as the sun rising in the East. Both Senators did not oppose DeVos on philosophy; that would have put them at odds with current Republican doctrine.
It is difficult to say who the coward was. The following are the 50 Senators who voted to confirm: Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee, John Barrasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Bozeman and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Shelly Capito of West Virginia, Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy of Louisiana, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho, Steve Daines of Montana, Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee of Utah, Dean Heller of Nevada, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Jim Inhofe and James Lankford of Oklahoma, Johnny Isakson and David Perdue of Georgia, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul of Kentucky, Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts of Kansas, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mike Rounds and John Thune of South Dakota, Marco Rubio of Florida, Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby of Alabama, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Todd Young of Indiana. The vote to confirm alone is something to be ashamed of.
Who was the coward? Were they compromised by political pressure? Was it past donations that made the difference? (My home state Senators Burr and Tillis received $43,000 and $91,000 respectively from DeVos during their last campaigns. I live in North Carolina; DeVos in Wisconsin. That is in addition to the $2.25 million her family donated to the Senate Leadership Fund in 2016.)
As an old boss of mine used to say, “There is a louse in the house.” In this case it’s the Senate and I have it down to one of 50.
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