Senate

Senate gears up for battle over Trump’s CIA pick

Greg Nash
 
The Senate is digging in for a fight over President Trump’s pick to lead the CIA, with lawmakers expected to start voting on his nominees Friday. 
 
A small group of Democrats — led by Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.) — are protesting confirming Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) on “day one” to lead the intelligence agency. 
 
Wyden, as well as Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), on Friday said the Senate shouldn’t be a “rubber stamp” for the new administration. 
 
“No CIA Director in history has ever been confirmed on Inauguration Day,” the three senators said in a joint statement. “The importance of the position of CIA Director, especially in these dangerous times, demands that the nomination be thoroughly vetted, questioned and debated.”
 
{mosads}The Senate is expected to vote on two Trump nominees on Friday afternoon: retired Gens. James Mattis and John Kelly, picked to lead the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security, respectively.
 
But Republicans, who had hoped that seven nominees would get cleared, argue that Democrats are risking national security by delaying a vote on Pompeo’s nomination. 
 
“There’s just no excuse for not confirming the CIA director today,” he said. “It’s been what fifteen, sixteen years since 9/11 … and this is a vulnerability when we make a transition from one administration to the next.”
 
Cornyn raised the prospect of weekend work, arguing GOP leadership should inflict “some pain” on Democrats by convincing them. 
 
Other lawmakers are also signaling that they would be willing to hold a late-night session to fight it out over Pompeo on Friday and potentially into the weekend. 
 
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) predicted that Democrats would cave and allow Pompeo to be confirmed Friday, though he noted he was also willing to work late despite the inauguration celebrations.  
 
“We’ll be grownups. This is going to work itself out,” he told reporters. “The night is young. I don’t like inaugural balls anyway.” 
 
Wyden, however, appeared to dismiss wrapping up the vote Friday. 
 
“To rush it through like this, to have a debate with everybody going off to parties, I think makes my point,” he said. “This is a substantial position. We haven’t gotten answers to our questions.”
 
Asked if the inaugural balls would force lawmakers to kick Pompeo’s nomination into next week, Wicker burst out laughing before asking reporters “are you serious?”
 
Senators had hinted earlier this week that Pompeo could also get a vote on Friday, but the House lawmaker appears to have run into a procedural stonewall.
 
Though Democrats need GOP help to block any Trump nominee, one senator can use the Senate’s rules to drag out a nomination for days.
 
An aide said Wyden would object to fast-tracking the nomination without a full Senate debate.
 
Wyden, Leahy, and Blumenthal noted Friday that the agency could function under the leadership of its senior personnel, and a spokesman for Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told McClatchy that he asked CIA Director John Brennan to stay in place over the weekend.
 
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) specified Friday that GOP leadership would like to also clear Ben Carson, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Nikki Haley, his pick for United Nations ambassador.
 
– Updated at 4:12 p.m.
Tags Charles Schumer John Thune Patrick Leahy Richard Blumenthal Roger Wicker Ron Wyden

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