Portman confirms support of Betsy Devos

Ohio Senator Rob Portman confirmed on Thursday that he will vote to confirm Betsy Devos as Secretary of Education.

“I support Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education because during the confirmation process she committed to strongly support public education and because of her support for local control, instead of having the federal government dictate education policy at the state and local level," Portman said. "I look forward to working with her to improve our K-12 public education system, make college more affordable, stand up for children with disabilities, and close the skills gap by promoting Career and Technical Education (CTE) to give young people more opportunities to succeed.”

Devos' nomination as Secretary of Education is one of the most contentious of President Donald Trump's cabinet picks. Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have said publicly they plan to vote against Devos' nomination. If they follow their public statements and no other Republicans flip, it would mean a 50-50 split on the Senate floor. That would throw the tiebreaking vote to Vice President Mike Pence, who would vote to confirm Devos.

Protesters rallied outside of Portman's Downtown Columbus office earlier this week calling on him to not support DeVos.

"Betsy DeVos is a person who has no education background at all, was never a teacher, was never an administrator, probably has never step foot into a public school," said Tracey Johnson with the Columbus Education Association which represents Columbus Public Schools teachers. "This nomination, this candidate is just not good for education on any level."

Democrats said DeVos owes the State of Ohio $5.3 million in campaign finance violations from 2008. Her supporters claim she doesn't owe anything because those donations were made by a political group she was part of and that group is now defunct.

Teacher unions have complained about her support for vouchers for private and charter schools, but that's what makes her appealing for some conservatives.

"Just a great choice," said Rep. Andy Brenner (R - Powell). "I think she's going to be a strong advocate for parents and students and local control."

DeVos was criticized for her testimony on Capitol Hill when she said a Wyoming school might want to have guns to defend against grizzly bears and she struggled to answer questions about policy.

"How are you going to make decisions about the education of millions of children in our country when you know nothing about education?" Johnson said.

Portman said he felt the president deserves to pick who he wants in his cabinet.

"She got through the process in kind of a bumpy way," Portman said. "Her hearing I thought was not great but what she did do was answer the specific questions I had."

DeVos is a billionaire who has donated millions of dollars to Republicans across the country. Records show her family donated more than $50,000 to Portman's campaign.

Her vote in the Senate has been postponed until next week.

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