Act One Complete, No Intermission

The US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions sent the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education to the full Senate. It was a party line vote of 12-11.

There was some minor drama as GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska both hinted at keeping their options open during a floor vote. But that, like most of the hearing, was political theater. Collins and Murkowski will only vote no if DeVos is assured of winning anyway.

Then there was a parliamentary kerfuffle because Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah voted yes by proxy. The Democrats on the committee objected, and while Hatch was located and brought to the committee room to cast his vote in person, the Democrats claimed that the entire voting process had to begin again, which would require advance notice of the second vote, delaying action on DeVos perhaps for days.

Committee chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee ruled against them, and was upheld by a majority vote of the committee.

I knew all those years of following Robert’s Rules of Order at NEA conventions would someday have a practical application.

There will be no respite as Collins and Murkowski will be deluged with union e-mails and phone calls. Other potential GOP swing votes will be targeted, but the HELP committee was the best opportunity to derail DeVos.

This might all seem fruitless if you’re a union supporter, particularly since it’s highly unlikely to result in a more agreeable Secretary of Education. But it keeps the troops focused on fighting Trump, instead of contemplating how he got elected in the first place. Besides, the teachers’ unions now have a stack of e-mail addresses they didn’t have before, so get your spam filter ready.

“We now have more activists that we can activate on a moment’s notice when we need them,” said NEA president Lily Eskelsen García. “They’ve told us, ‘This is vital to us, this is important to us, we are passionate for this.’ And they will want to hold people accountable, from Donald Trump to Betsy DeVos to the senators who made it possible for her to have that kind of power.”