Education secretary nominee may be rejected

Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee confirmation hearing to be next Secretary of Education on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, on Jan 17, 2017.
Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee confirmation hearing to be next Secretary of Education on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, on Jan 17, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Public refusals on Wednesday by two US Senate Republicans to support Ms Betsy DeVos, US President Donald Trump's pick for education secretary, raised the possibility of a rare congressional rejection of a Cabinet nominee.

In an ominous sign for Mr Trump, Republican senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski said they would not vote for Ms DeVos, a billionaire philanthropist and charter school advocate.

They would be the first Republicans to break party ranks and vote against one of Mr Trump's Cabinet selections.

Democrats, uniformly opposed to Ms DeVos, are expected to oppose her as a block. They would need only three Republicans to side with them to make Ms DeVos just the 10th Cabinet nominee in US history to be rejected by Congress.

Senators Collins and Murkowski also created a possible speed bump in confirming another Trump nominee, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney-general.

Once Mr Sessions, who was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, becomes the country's top law enforcement officer, he will have to vacate his Senate seat and can no longer cast a vote supporting Ms DeVos. With voting margins so thin, his departure would put her nomination in peril.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline 'Education secretary nominee may be rejected'. Print Edition | Subscribe