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February 09, 2017

Toomey defends vote to confirm DeVos as education secretary in radio appearance

As the Senate confirmation process slowly fills out President Trump's Cabinet, a Pennsylvania lawmaker who cast a pivotal vote for a controversial nominee is now explaining his actions.

On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey hopped on Chris Stigall's show on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT to explain why he has shown support for Trump's Cabinet picks, including newly-confirmed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

With the possible exception of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nomination of DeVos elicited the strongest reaction from Trump's detractors. Critics of DeVos flooded the phone lines of many Republican senators, including Toomey. After Toomey's voicemail box reached capacity and prevented additional calls from getting through, citizens marched in front of Toomey's Center City office to conduct peaceful demonstrations.

Ultimately, those protests did not sway Toomey's opinion and his vote to confirm DeVos contributed to an historic 50-50 tie. For the first time in American history, the vice president was needed to break a stalemate to confirm a Cabinet nomination.

Although Toomey's vote has angered thousands to call for his recall (which is impossible), the two-term senator of the Keystone State finally spoke at length about the tumultuous confirmation process.

When asked why the "education establishment" campaigned hard for Toomey to vote no, he explained why he is a "big fan of Betsy DeVos":

“We have to disrupt this model, a quasi monopoly on education, there’s too many kids it is not serving well. It’s not a slander against individual teachers. It’s just a fact that those kids would be better off if they had a choice in the kind of school and the specific school that they attend. Betsy DeVos has devoted her adult life to give poor kids more options so that they can get better education and the education establishment will not abide that.”

Toomey also shared his vision for parents to choose primary and secondary schools in a similar way that students select a college:

"You can take your Pell Grant to any college you want. You don't have to go to the government-owned university in your town. You can go to any college in America. And we think that's fine. But on primary and secondary education, the education establishment won't allow that. They want the kids to have to go to their school."

Critics of DeVos fear that she lacks the experience to lead the public school system and would undo the progress made in many cities.

Mayor Jim Kenney echoed those concerns in a letter to Toomey, "This is about whether the U.S. Senate should appoint someone to a job she does not understand, which could have tremendous consequences for our most vulnerable children and our economy."

Toomey's comments on DeVos begin at 8:11 mark of the 14-minute interview:

Toomey also discussed accusations that Sessions is racist, the upcoming Senate confirmations and the Democratic Party's strategy to block Trump's nominations.