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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio, Nelson face onslaught of pressure to vote against Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos

The Associated Press

Betsy DeVos



WASHINGTON - Opponents of Betsy Devos, President Trump’s nominee for education secretary, are bombarding the offices of Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, part of a national effort that has weakened her chances of being confirmed.

Nelson received more than 2,000 phone calls by Wednesday afternoon, a spokesman said, and most were against DeVos.

Rubio’s office refused to say how many calls or emails had come in, citing “longstanding policy of not publicizing this info."

But it’s likely the Republican has faced a more intense effort.

“Big, big news. Just one more Republican vote necessary. Call Marco Rubio and tell him to VOTE NO,” read a Facebook post from Jacksonville Wednesday night after Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski came out against DeVos.

Mary Zampino of Clearwater tells the Times she tried to call Rubio on Tuesday but the voicemail box was full. "No wonder he won't publicize how many calls he receives, because he can't physically receive them!" she wrote in an email Thursday morning. She was able to leave a message in Rubio's Tallahassee office.

Another reader writes this morning: "Do you know that both the Tampa and Washington offices of Marco Rubio have full voicemail boxes?  In addition not being able to speak to an actual person last month now I cannot even leave a message?  This is NOT representation!" (The Times called Rubio and Nelson's Tampa offices and both voicemail boxes were full)

Critics point to DeVos’ widespread political contributions, and Rubio is a recipient, getting $5,400 for last year’s Senate campaign. She also contributed to Rubio’s presidential campaign and gave $50,000 to the Conservative Solutions PAC that supported that bid. Rubio also got money from other DeVos family members.

Still, Rubio has long supported the school choice movement DeVos champions and he has backed all of Trump’s nominees.

“I support @BetsyDeVos' nomination, because every child deserves a good #education regardless of their zip code or how much money they have,” Rubio wrote in  Jan. 17 Twitter post.

Nelson on Tuesday said he’ll vote against DeVos but did not elaborate other than to say he was joining Collins and Murkowski. Their opposition leaves Republicans no room for another defection.

“I have serious concerns about a nominee to be secretary of education who has been so involved in one side of the equation, so immersed in the push for vouchers, that she may be unaware of what actually is successful within the public schools, and also what is broken and how to fix them,” Murkowski said.

NOTE: Speaking of donations, Nelson has gotten money from one of Trump's picks, Wilbur Ross. The billionaire gave Nelson $4,800 in 2010, records show. Nelson supports Ross for commerce secretary.

[Last modified: Thursday, February 2, 2017 1:39pm]


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