- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2017

They are comforting themselves with moral victories, but for Democrats, there have been no concrete wins so far in their showdowns with the Trump administration.

The Senate vote Tuesday confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary was the latest example, with the minority party holding all its own troops and even gaining the support of some Republicans — and still falling short in their bid to thwart President Trump.

It’s not for lack of trying. Democrats staged a rally outside the Supreme Court last week to protest Mr. Trump’s executive order for extreme vetting at ports of entry for people from seven Muslim-majority nations. They also mounted feverish opposition to nearly all of the president’s Cabinet picks, forcing record delays and denying him his team.

They also have helped increase Mr. Trump’s approval rating, which stands at 54 percent, up nearly 10 points since just after his inauguration.

But Republicans powered through their budget, and each of Mr. Trump’s nominees has been approved thanks to the lower threshold Democrats created in 2013 to help President Obama.

Top Democrats sought a silver lining in the DeVos confirmation, saying they forced Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote.

“It was history-making,” said Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia. “There never had to be a vice president come break a tie to get a Cabinet secretary in.

“What we are showing is whether it is in Congress or it is in peaceful protests, or whether it is courts, lawsuits, whether it is online, we are not going to just go away quietly when somebody is hurting our values and hurting our people and hurting our country,” Mr. Kaine said.

Democrats on the House side of the Capitol have fared no better in stopping the Trump agenda, and the caucus there is scheduled to kick off a three-day retreat Wednesday in Baltimore, where Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Co. will continue to plot a course forward.

For now, Democrats are focusing on channeling the energy of the activists railing against Mr. Trump’s policies and Cabinet picks.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, told reporters Tuesday that even in defeat, they have exposed Mr. Trump’s hypocrisy and his nominees’ incompetence.

“We also have an obligation, even if we don’t win, to show the American people who these nominees are, because they’re going to have enormous power over the American people,” he said. “Once we set the table, such as Secretary-nominee DeVos is against public education, it will serve to put a magnifying glass on her when she makes decisions. So that’s important too.”

Mr. Schumer said Democrats have punctured Mr. Trump’s claims of draining the swamp in Washington, “greatly weakening President Trump’s ability with the American people because he’s not doing what he promised.”

Republicans have smarted over the obstructions but predicted Democrats will eventually tire.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said some Democrats “are kind of embarrassed by the whole show.”

“At some point here, you’ve got to wonder about dysfunction and fatigue beginning to set in. And I predict that will happen sometime in the near future and we’ll get back to a more normal kind of operating style,” he said.

Senate Democrats did everything they could to derail the nomination of Ms. DeVos, who looked vulnerable after an uneven performance at her confirmation hearing.

They boycotted her committee confirmation hearings. They rallied with teachers and other activists outside the U.S. Capitol this week and held the Senate floor overnight in protest in the run-up to Tuesday’s vote.

Democrats said the public pressure led to the defections of Sens. Susan M. Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — making them the first Republican lawmakers to break with the Trump administration over a Cabinet pick.

Mr. Pence, though, with his tie-breaking vote, poured cold water on any hopes of sending the education secretary pick back to Mr. Trump — reminding Democrats that they don’t control The White House, either.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat and chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said the vote will haunt Republicans.

“You have a lot of senators that are trying to do the bidding of the Trump administration on some of these nominees,” Mr. Van Hollen said. “It is unfortunate, and I think at the end of the day they are going to come to regret that vote because they are going to be joined at the hip with Betsy DeVos’ anti-public-education agenda.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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