Portman, meanwhile, said he supported DeVos in part because "I give deference to the president to put together a team."
He said the opposition to her nomination "became an issue well beyond Betsy DeVos."
"She is the most aggressive advocate I've ever seen for local control," he said. "Even if you don't agree with me that she's going to be good with regard to innovation in public education - which I think she will, based on what she's said - she's not a threat to my school district. Because she believes that my school district - which is a great school district, by the way - ought to be able to make their own decisions. That's what local control means.
"This notion that she'll take this job and change your school district is not consistent with her history or her strong advocacy of local control."
During DeVos' confirmation process, Brown repeatedly called for DeVos to pay back the money. In the House, Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Township, joined other Ohio House Democrats in also repeatedly calling for her to repay the $5.3 million.
"It is abundantly clear that Betsy DeVos is woefully unqualified to head the U.S. Department of Education," Beatty said after the vote, saying that DeVos' sole qualification "is being a well-connected, Republican mega donor." DeVos and her relatives have given at least $20.2 to GOP lawmakers since 1989, including candidates, party committees, PACs and super PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Center found that DeVos alone gave Portman's two Senate campaigns some $7,800. DeVos has also contributed to Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel's 2012 campaign for Senate. Mandel plans to run against Brown again next year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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