DeVos, who is one of the owners of the Orlando Magic and related to family members who founded Amway, was opposed by all Senate Democrats and two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, according to the Washington Post. Pence cast a historic tie-breaking vote, according to the New York Times because it's the "first time that a vice president has been summoned to the Capitol to break a tie on a cabinet nomination." Critics say the Republican donor and billionaire philanthropist is unqualified to lead the federal Department of Education, inexperienced in the realm of public education, and too focused on charter schools, vouchers, tax credit scholarships and other school choice issues.
While Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, voted against DeVos, Rubio supported the billionaire despite many people reaching out to his office to oppose DeVos' confirmation. The Huffington Post reports the DeVos family has donated $8.3 million to Republican Party super PACs in the last two elections. Last year, DeVos gave Rubio $5,400 for his Senate campaign and $50,000 to the Conservative Solutions PAC that supported Rubio's presidential campaign, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The Orlando Sentinel reports DeVos also contributed to several Republican and Democratic Florida politicians in 2016, including Democrat Gary Siplin, $1,000; Republican John Mica, $2,700; Democrat Darren Soto, $2,700; and $10,000 to the Republican Party of Florida.
A spokesperson for Rubio responded on his Facebook page to critics in a statement on Monday before the vote, saying:
"People contribute to Senator Rubio's campaign because they support his agenda. Ms. DeVos is a strong supporter of empowering parents and providing educational opportunity for all, policies Senator Rubio has supported for over a decade. Her nomination is opposed by Democrats who take millions of dollars from the big unions obsessed with denying school choice to low-income children. Senator Rubio looks forward to voting to confirm her."