FOX19 - Sen. Rob Portman has thrown his support behind Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump's controversial pick for education secretary.
"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," Sen. Portman said in a written statement Thursday.
"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 has no votes to spare heading into a scheduled confirmation vote next week. Republican senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski said on Wednesday they plan to vote against her. This could mean a 50-50 showdown on the Senate floor, requiring Vice President Mike Pence to be the tie breaker.
Republicans control the chamber with a 52-48 majority, no Democrats are expected to stand behind DeVos. Assuming no other Republicans switch their support and all show up to vote, DeVos is expected to squeak through confirmation.
Portman's support came alongside Pay Toomey's of Pennsylvania after Collins and Murkowski broke ranks. Protesters have pressured the Ohio senator after DeVos' rocky confirmation hearings, protesting outside his Columbus and Cincinnati offices.
The prospective education secretary has received bipartisan criticism on her views on education and support for voucher programs. Democrats have blasted DeVos, a GOP mega-donor, for appearing to be confused on special education laws and suggested teachers may need to defend themselves from grizzly bears when discussing if firearms should be allowed in schools.
School choice PAC, All Children Matter Inc. was fined $5.3 million by the state of Ohio in 2008 for breaking local election laws, according to documents provided by the Ohio Election Commission. The state found the group channeled $870,000 to the Ohio PAC from the Virginia PAC, going over the $10,000 cap on contributions in Ohio. DeVos was not named in the suit. However, she served as director of the group for years until Trump selected her for his education secretary pick.
Some Senate Democrats have weaponized the fine as a political issue to curtail DeVos' confirmation.
Sen. Sherrod Brown back by Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, insisted DeVos pay the fines issued by Ohio.
"If Betsy DeVos wants to support education, she can start by paying the $5 million she owes Ohio taxpayers," Brown said in a written statement. "I cannot look Ohio parents in the eye and tell them she won't put profits ahead of their children's education."
DeVos insisted she is not responsible for the multi-million dollar fine against her political action committee.
"Your assertions that I should personally pay the fine or that I am using a "legal loophole" to avoid personally paying the fine are both incorrect and unfair." DeVose write in a letter addressed to Brown and his allies. "As you know, I was never a party to the lawsuit, and the trial court judge expressly ruled an ACM officer could not be held personally liable for the fine."