Amid struggle for votes, GOP plows ahead with Cabinet picks

Amid struggle for votes, GOP plows ahead with Cabinet picks
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Senate Republicans are preparing to move forward with President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP lawmakers preparing to vote on bill allowing migrant children to be detained longer than 20 days: report Wasserman Schultz: Infants separated from their parents are in Florida immigrant shelters Ex-White House ethics chief: Sarah Sanders tweet violates ethics laws MORE’s Cabinet nominees as soon as next week. The problem is that none of them appear to have locked up the 51 votes needed to be confirmed.

But Republicans are barreling ahead anyway, facing heavy pressure from both the administration and their conservative base to speed up the process.

CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo: Trump likely to meet with Putin in 'not-too-distant future' A path to victory for Trump on Iran Israel scales back work with UN Human Rights Council after US exit MORE, who has been nominated to lead the State Department, and CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel, tapped to be Pompeo’s successor as spy chief, have particularly stiff headwinds in the face of GOP opposition and are quietly meeting with potential swing votes.

White House physician Ronny Jackson, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, is also scheduled to get a committee hearing next week, on April 25. He’s certain to face questions about his lack of experience in running a large bureaucratic organization like the VA.

Senators say they expect GOP leadership to bring Pompeo’s nomination to the floor first, even if he isn’t able to win a favorable recommendation from the Foreign Relations Committee.

“Oh, yes, I’m confident of that,” Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynSenate left in limbo by Trump tweets, House delays Senate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump GOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border MORE (R-Texas) told The Hill, asked about giving Pompeo a floor vote.

According to the Senate Historian’s Office, senators have only used such a move on a Cabinet nominee once before: In 1945, when President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Henry Wallace to be secretary of Commerce.

It appears increasingly unlikely that Pompeo will be able to get majority support from the Foreign Relations panel, where Republicans have a one-seat advantage, because GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP senators call for probe of federal grants on climate change Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Key ObamaCare groups in limbo | Opioids sending thousands of kids into foster care | House passes bill allowing Medicaid to pay for opioid treatments US watchdog: 'We failed' to stem Afghan opium production MORE (Ky.) opposes him.

To do so he would need to win over at least one Democrat. Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineVirginia Dems want answers on alleged detention center abuse Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor Koch group won't back Stewart in Virginia MORE (D-Va.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDem senator: If Nielsen doesn't reunite families, 'she should resign' America will not forget about Pastor Andrew Brunson Shaheen sidelined after skin surgery MORE (D-N.H.) are the only two on the panel who supported him to be CIA director.

But Kaine announced he would oppose Pompeo to be the country’s top diplomat, saying he has “grave doubts about his anti-diplomacy disposition.”

Shaheen is opposing Pompeo as well, citing her “deep concerns” about his “past statements and policy views, particularly in regards to the LGBTQ community, American Muslims and women’s reproductive rights.”

Republicans will be forced to lean on Democrats to get Pompeo confirmed by the full Senate. 

With Paul opposed and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMulvaney aims to cement CFPB legacy by ensuring successor's confirmation Trump mocks McCain at Nevada rally Don’t disrespect McCain by torpedoing his clean National Defense Authorization Act MORE (R-Ariz.) absent from Washington, they only have 49 potential “yes” votes — one short of the 50 they need to let Vice President Pence break a tie. 

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending Senators hammer Ross over Trump tariffs GOP senator demands details on 'damaging' tariffs MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations panel, sidestepped questions about moving Pompeo to the floor even if he doesn’t get a favorable vote, chiding reporters that “conjecture is bad for your health.”

But he confirmed that he would like to have both a committee vote and a full Senate vote on Pompeo next week, before Congress leaves for a weeklong recess. 

“I know there’s a desire on behalf of the administration to try to have him confirmed before recess,” he said.

While every Republican besides Paul supported Pompeo to be CIA director and are expected to vote for him again, Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcSally takes hard line on immigration in Arizona primary Flake threatens to limit Trump court nominees: report Poll: McSally holds 14-point lead in Arizona GOP Senate primary MORE (R-Ariz.) said on Tuesday that he is “still waiting on some information from him” before he makes a decision.

A growing number of Democratic senators are coming out against Pompeo, citing his hawkish views and broader concerns about Trump’s foreign policy, including his decision to name John Bolton his national security adviser.

But of the 14 members of the minority who voted for Pompeo as CIA director, a group that includes Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingMaine Senate candidate arrested outside immigration detention center Icebreaking ships are not America’s top priority in the Arctic Heckler yells ‘Mr. President, f--- you’ as Trump arrives at Capitol MORE (I-Maine), only Kaine, Shaheen, Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDem senator: 'Stop pretending' law banning separation of migrant families is hard to pass Hillicon Valley: Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner deal in blow to DOJ | Dems renew push to secure state voting systems | Seattle reverses course on tax after Amazon backlash | Trump, senators headed for cyber clash | More Tesla layoffs Dems question FCC's claim of cyberattack during net neutrality comment period MORE (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate left in limbo by Trump tweets, House delays Children should not be human shields against immigration enforcement The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Immigration drama grips Washington MORE (D-Calif.) have said they will oppose Pompeo to lead the State Department.

Cornyn said there are “discussions going on” with Democrats but declined to elaborate as he walked backwards into his office.

Pompeo is leaving no stone unturned as he hunts for votes ahead of a potential showdown on the floor next week. 

He has met with Democratic Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Trump caves under immense pressure — what now? Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral Manchin up 9 points over GOP challenger in W.Va. Senate race MORE (W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampMulvaney aims to cement CFPB legacy by ensuring successor's confirmation Heitkamp ad highlights record as Senate race heats up Supreme Court rules states can require online sellers to collect sales tax MORE (N.D.), who are both up for reelection this fall and previously supported Trump’s Cabinet picks. Heitkamp said on Tuesday that an unfavorable vote in committee would not impact her decision. 

“We’re still evaluating. Still considering. ... Still undecided,” Heitkamp said.

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillNail manufacturing exec who voted for Trump blames him for layoffs, asks Democrat for help The American economy is stronger than ever six months after tax cuts The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Immigration drama grips Washington MORE (D-Mo.) told reporters that she was meeting with Pompeo this week, while Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) said Pompeo’s team had reached out and a spokeswoman for Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerMulvaney aims to cement CFPB legacy by ensuring successor's confirmation Virginia Dems want answers on alleged detention center abuse Wray defends FBI after 'sobering' watchdog report MORE said the Virginia Democrat plans to meet with Pompeo pending scheduling. 

Jones, who was not in the Senate for Pompeo’s CIA vote, said he was keeping an “open mind.”

Meanwhile, the White House formally sent Haspel’s nomination to the Senate on Tuesday, which could pave the way for her to get a confirmation hearing before the recess.

Haspel has been meeting with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Warner and Manchin, as well as Senate leadership.

With Paul opposed to her nomination and several key GOP votes on the fence, Haspel could also need support from Democrats to win confirmation.

“Don’t know how I’m going to vote. Totally open-minded,” Manchin told reporters on Tuesday.

Haspel is under scrutiny from both sides of aisle because of her reported role in interrogations at a “black site” prison and the destruction of videotapes documenting the waterboarding sessions of an al Qaeda suspect there.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Gang of Four to meet next week on immigration Republicans agree — it’s only a matter of time for Scott Pruitt Skyrocketing insulin prices provoke new outrage MORE (R-Maine), a key moderate vote and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, met with Haspel on Monday but has said she will wait until the hearing to make a decision. 

“I had a very good meeting with her. There are obviously some questions that she’s going to need to answer in a public hearing,” she said. “I’m looking forward to getting some additional information I asked for.”