Yesterday, the United States Senate confirmed Betsy Devos as Education Secretary. Democrats managed to convince enough republicans to vote against Devos, resulting in a 50-50 tie. Vice President Mike Pence then cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of Devos.
To say democratic Senator Chuck Schumer was unhappy with how things turned out is an understatement. So upset was he, that he channeled a little bit of President Donald Trump by claiming the process was rigged in the following tweet.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 7, 2017
So the entirety of President Trump’s cabinet is rigged because democrats lost the vote on now Secretary Devos? Let’s break down all the ways Senator Schumer is wrong about that.
First, let’s look at the fact that Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote on confirming Devos. The Constitution is quite clear on the Vice Presdient’s role in the Senate.
The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
So Pence had a constitutional right to cast the tie-breaking vote when the confirmation vote on Devos ended up tied at 50 votes for and 50 votes against. Was this the part Schumer believes was rigged? If so, republicans would have had to realize all the way back in 1787 that one day Devos would be nominated for Education Secretary, that the vote would be tied 50-50, and a republican vice president would need to break the tie in order for her to be confirmed. Of course, you would have to ignore the fact that the republican party didn’t begin until 1854, never mind the fact that the Department of Education didn’t come into existence until 1979. But hey, the vote was rigged.
What about Schumer’s statement that Pence voted on his own cabinet nominee? Unless something has changed that I’m not aware of, the President of the United States is the one who nominates cabinet members. While the Vice President may give his advice and opinion if asked, the final decision on who to nominate is the President’s alone. This means that Trump is the one who nominated Devos, not Pence. Yes, Pence did cast a tie-breaking vote on his own party’s cabinet nominee, but that is a far cry different than casting a tie-breaking vote on his own nominee.
Even if Trump allowed Pence to decide who to nominate for that Education Secretary, how does that turn Pence’s tie-breaking vote into a rigged cabinet? Again, the Senators were the one who decided how to vote for Devos. When it ended in a tie, Pence, as described above, had the constitutional right to cast the tie-breaker.
Finally, let’s look at the part of Schumer’s statement about how Pence “did something no one else has ever done.” Schumer clearly forgets his own party changed the Senate rules in the first place.
Thanks to all of you who encouraged me to consider filibuster reform. It had to be done.
— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) November 21, 2013
Back in 2013, democrats were upset with republicans over not allowing several of President Barack Obama’s cabinet and federal judge picks to be voted on. So Senator Harry Reid led the charge to take the nuclear route, which allowed the Senate to close discussion on some presidential nominations by a simple majority vote instead of the 60-vote requirement that had been in place. Had those rules not been changed, Pence would not have had an opportunity to cast a tie-breaking vote because they likely would have never gotten 60 votes to end debate on Devos’ nomination.
So if the entire cabinet is rigged because of this one vote, then democrats need to hold themselves accountable for the part they played in rigging the vote.